Friday, July 13, 2012

Off To A Great Start

Since summer is in full swing, we are operating on summer hours at our house (of course, we've been on summer hours since early May but that's beside the point).  What does that mean, you ask?  It just means that we're lucky if we're eating dinner by 7pm.  We spend most of the year trying to make time for homework, sports, getting the kids to bed at a decent time, that once summer rolls around we're like "Who cares! It stays light until almost 9:00 so let's just try to eat before dark".  OK, it's not quite that bad but you get the gist.  Since we're operating in super lax summer mode, I decided recently to try out some Eggplant Ricotta Bites as a little appetizer the other night.  It was a major hit.  I posted a (crappy) picture on Facebook and people were ALL OVER IT.  So here you go~
You will need one medium eggplant sliced on the thinnish side.  As it turns out, some people are a little weirded out by eggplant and just assume they don't like it.  I'm thinking it must be the name because visually, they're quite nice.  If you have never tried eggplant, this is the perfect way to give it a shot.
Once sliced, you will dredge (coat both sides shaking off the excess) the eggplant in flour.

Next you will beat up a couple of eggs and give it a quick dunk in there.  I like how you can see me and my helpers in the bowl.
Then a quick coating of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
It's nothing a hungry for something new eight year old can't handle.  Of course you'll want to encourage safety around that hot oil.
You fry the eggplant in batches because otherwise it won't all fit in the pan.  Try not to let those little bits that fall off get too burnt.  You may want to open a window.
As they become browned and cooked through, drain them on a paper towel covered plate to get rid of the excess grease.  Yum, don't they look so good?  While your eight year old is frying eggplant, you might want to chop up some tomatoes and fresh basil.
To the tomatoes, add a little olive oil, red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.
Before heading out to the patio, top each slice with a dollop of part skim ricotta, a few tomato pieces and some fresh basil.  Next time I will stir some fresh basil (maybe some parsley if I have it) and salt and pepper into the ricotta for a little extra flair. Or another way to snazz them up would be to use balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes instead.  Hmmm.  Might be making these again sooner than I thought!
They taste pretty darned good just sticking to the recipe too.  This kid would have pounded the whole plate if I had let him!

Eggplant Ricotta Bites (Food Network)

1 med eggplant
kosher salt
all-purpose flour for dredging
2 large eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)
2 large plum tomatoes diced
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
fresh basil for topping

Thinly slice the eggplant into rounds and season with salt.  Pour some flour into a shallow dish.  Beat the eggs in another dish.  In a third dish, mix the parm and breadcrumbs.  Dredge eggplant in flour, then dip in eggs and coat with breadcrumb mixture.

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Working in batches, cook the eggplant until golden, about 2 min per side adding more oil between batches as needed.  Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 tsps olive oil and vinegar in a bowl.  Spoon some ricotta onto each eggplant slice.  Top with tomato mixture and fresh basil.  Try not to eat them all yourself.

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