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eggplant napoleonEGGPLANT NAPOLEON

(listen to an interview with Chef Rawia Bishara)

MAKES 8 TO 10 SERVINGS
3 medium eggplants (21/2 to 3 pounds total), stem and root ends trimmed , sliced into
1/2-inch-thick rounds
Sea salt for sprinkling
1/4 cup Basil Pesto (page 191)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg whites, beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Corn oil for frying
3 cups Baba Ghanouj (page 40) or Mutabal (page 41)
For the Salad
8 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
7 tablespoons Basil Pesto (page 191)
Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch sea salt
 
Arrange the eggplant slices on two sheet pans, sprinkle with salt, and set aside for
30 minutes or until they begin to sweat. Using a paper towel, pat the slices dry and
set aside.
. In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Toss in the
eggplant to coat and let marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour or overnight
in the refrigerator.
. Dump the flour onto a shallow rimmed plate. In a medium bowl, whisk together the
egg whites and 1 cup of water. Combine the panko, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley
and pepper on a second shallow rimmed plate.
. Spread a sheet of waxed paper on a clean work surface. Working with one slice of
eggplant at a time, dredge it in the flour first, shaking  off the excess, and then dip it in
the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Gently press the breadcrumbs onto
both sides of the eggplant and place on the waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining
eggplant slices.
. Pour at least 2 inches of corn oil into a small, deep pot. Heat the oil over high until hot
but not smoking. Working in batches, fry the eggplant slices until golden, turning once,
3 to 5 minutes. Do not crowd the pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant slices
to a paper towel–lined platter to drain.
. To serve:  Place an eggplant slice on a small plate. Spread with 2 tablespoons of the baba ghanouj, top with a second eggplant slice and spread 1 tablespoon of baba ghanouj on top.
Repeat layering in this order with the remaining eggplant slices and baba ghanouj to
make eight to ten eggplant stacks.
. Just before serving, toss together the salad: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes
and onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the pesto, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Drizzle just enough of the pesto mixture over the tomato-onion mixture to thoroughly
coat.  Spoon some salad around each napoleon and drizzle the napoleons with some of
the dressing left in the bottom of the bowl. Serve immediately.
 
BABA GHANOUJ
Every country in the Levantine region claims this earthy, robust spread as its own.
And, in truth, it might simply be because there are many ways to season “baba.” On the West Bank and in Gaza, most cooks use red tahini made from sesame seeds that are roasted for a longer time than the white seeds. Many cooks use pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice. Some garnish with parsley, others with pistachios, and still others with pomegranate seeds. And it goes on and on. My version is rather straightforward, intensely smoky and a touch more tart than most. In Nazareth, we call this spread mutabal (I had never heard it called baba ghanouj until I came to New York), a name used in other parts of the Middle East for an entirely different eggplant spread made without tahini.

MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS
3 medium eggplants (21/2 to 3 pounds total)
11/2 cups Thick Tahini Sauce (page 195)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh lemon juice or pomegranate molasses to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Arabic Bread – pita - for serving
COOKING TIP- My dad used to say that the key to making excellent baba is to begin with grilled eggplant made by setting the vegetable directly over hot coals or the flame of a gas stove, imparting a lovely smoky flavor. But if you want a milder flavor, roast the eggplants in the oven; directions are provided for both methods below. You can use any kind of eggplant you like, but ideally choose a variety with few seeds and avoid especially large eggplants, as they taste bitter. I prefer the black Italian eggplant; I find it has the least amount of seeds.
. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for grilling over high heat, or turn a gas burner to high.
Place the eggplants directly onto the coals or one at a time on the flame and grill, using
tongs to turn the vegetables as the skin chars, until blackened all over. Set aside to cool.
Alternatively, to roast the eggplants, preheat the oven to 500°F and line a baking sheet
with aluminum foil. Pierce the eggplants in a few places with a sharp knife, place them
on the prepared baking sheet and roast, turning every 5 minutes or so, until the skin is blistered and begins to crack all over. Set aside to cool.
. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, transferring it directly to a strainer to allow the liquid to release.
. Transfer the strained eggplant to a medium bowl. Add the tahini sauce to the eggplant
and mash them together with a fork, breaking up the larger pieces of eggplant with a
knife, if necessary. Stir in the garlic along with lemon juice to taste. Spoon the eggplant into a rimmed serving dish and, using the back of a spoon, make a well around the circumference of the dip, about 1/2 inch from the edge. Drizzle the oil into the well and garnish with the parsley. Serve with Arabic bread.
 
Basil Pesto
The first time I ever tasted pesto, I was hooked. I remember the first meal I made using it like it was yesterday—linguini tossed with pesto, topped with fried eggplant and served with fresh home-baked bread. When I use pesto this way, as a sauce, I generally make it with pine nuts. If I’m going to incorporate it into a dish, I use almonds, which are less expensive.
MAKES 2 CUPS
3 to 5 cloves garlic
1 cup pine nuts, slivered almonds or walnut halves
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 packed cups chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storage
Juice of 2 lemons
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

. Put the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Toss in the nuts, Parmesan, if using, pepper and salt and chop until the nuts are finely crushed, about 1 minute. Add the basil, oil and lemon juice and pulse for 1 minute more, until smooth. Stir in red pepper flakes, if desired.

. To store, transfer the pesto to a sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto, seal and refrigerate up to 10 days or freeze up to 3 months.