Who would ever have thought that a woman working on nuclear energy policy with their MBA would be a food network star?? Ina Garten is a true inspiration and her determination to "follow her dream" paid off.... big time! Ina is another favorite of mine, her show "The Barefoot Contessa" is on the food network. I find myself mesmerized by her soothing voice and style. She makes everything so easy with her sharing techniques and incredible elegant and easy recipes. Her famous message when entertaining is to never serve more than 3 items at a meal... I'm always going to do that, and then at the last minute a panic takes over me and I find myself making way more than I need to... I'm determined to start to listen to her! This recipe, from "The Barefoot Contessa", is one of my all time favorites...if you know anything about me...you know my all time favorite food is "eggplant" - I love it cooked every and any way. It's funny, it's my mothers "least" favorite foods...one of the few things we don't share in common.
Eggplant Gratin Ingredients:
Good olive oil, for frying
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.
Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm. I think I just may make it this weekend!