"What are you making for dinner?", Michael asked, as he strolled into the kitchen after his afternoon nap. I was frying parmesan breaded baby eggplant medallions at the time. "I have no idea.", I replied.
I had a lot of ingredients. I was trying to figure out a dinner plan while I fried the tiny and cute baby eggplants as a jumping point. Frying and thinking. Frying and thinking. I thought about eggplant parmesan. Nope. The last one I attempted sucked. It looked awful and tasted even worse. Scratch that.
Moussaka? Hardly. They were too small for a proper moussaka.
I had fresh pasta, caperberries, nicoise olives, capers, and farmers' market red peppers. Should I place the fried eggplant on top of the pasta? Or, make a pasta nest and rest the eggplant into the nest before saucing? Should the eggplant and pasta be sauced together or seperately? And, if so, with which sauce?Alfredo? Carbonara? Puttanesca? Marinara?
I fried all the eggplant rounds with their stemmed tops, sprinkled them with sea salt, and stared at them for a while before deciding to construct individual eggplant napoleans. Deconstructed eggplant parmesan napoleans.
I stacked repeated layers of the parmesan breaded fried eggplant rounds with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and tiny dollops of fresh marinara before topping the individual stacks with their fried lids. I set them aside and heated the oven to 350.
I finally settled on fresh marinara sauce to dress the eggplant napoleans and decided to serve them alongside olive oil sauteed al dente fresh pasta, sliced red peppers, slivered onions, caperberries, capers, minced garlic, and nicoise olives.
Whew. With decisions made and mise en place, it was time to enjoy a few glasses of wine. Not a moment too soon. My head was exploding.
When it was time to dine, I slid the eggplant napoleans into the well heated oven to melt the cheese and warm through. While they warmed, I sauteed sliced red peppers, onions, and minced garlic until softened and caramelized. After cooking fresh linguini in heavily salted water until almost al dente, I scooped it out with a spider and tossed it into the hot saute pan to finish cooking with the sizzling vegetables. Torn fresh basil, scattered caperberries, capers, black olives, salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil finished it off.
I pooled fresh marinara onto our plates, nestled the eggplant stacks onto the sauce, and drizzled additional marinara over the top. Using tongs, I twirled and swirled the jeweled pasta to the side of the napoleans with garlic-butter slathered ciabatta slices as soppers.
The eggplant was crisp and salty with gooey dripping mozzarella streaming down the layers. The slight anise flavored baked basil flavored the mild cheese with its inherent essential oils as it oozed from the napoleans. The thick fresh marinara sauce added a sweet tomato acidity that cut through the fried eggplant and baked cheese, adding a needed freshness. Fantastic.
The lip sticking olive oil draped linguini was tarted up by the briny pickled caperberries and capers with mouth popping explosions. Acidic. Sharp. Perfect. The black olives played off the crisp red peppers with salty earthy undertones. Side by side, the vegetable studded olive oil dressed pasta wonderfully balanced the crunchy cheesy richness of the marinara napped eggplant napoleans.
It was fun to fly by the seat of my pants. To not have a plan.....at all.