• Fried Capay Organics Eggplant “Sandwich” with Sautéed Spinach, Grilled Tomato and Bellweather Farms Ricotta served with Sautéed Red Cabbage and Barley Broccoli Risotto

    Serves 8

    2 or 3 medium globe eggplants*, cut in 3/4-inch slices, for a total of 16 slices
    Kosher salt
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    6 large eggs, beaten lightly
    4 cups Panko bread crumbs
    Rice bran oil for frying, enough to fill a heavy skillet 1/2 inch up the side

    Fill a large non-reactive* mixing bowl halfway with cold water. Add kosher salt until you can just taste it in the water. Place all the eggplant slices in the water. Weigh the eggplant down with a smaller bowl filled with water to submerge the slices in the salt water. Soak for at least 1/2 hour, then drain the eggplant and squeeze out/wipe off the moisture before proceeding.

    Mix the flour and cornstarch together and dredge the eggplant until well coated, pat to remove the excess and dip into the beaten egg mixture. Drop eggplant slices into the Panko and press to coat well. Set the breaded eggplant on a rack covered with paper towels until all slices are breaded.

    Fill a skillet with the rice bran oil and heat to 375 degrees. Once you reach temperature, carefully lay slices of eggplant in the oil to brown. Carefully remove the eggplant from the oil and place on a rack with dry paper towels to drain. Repeat until all eggplant is fried. Hold at room temperature for assembly.

    For the Spinach and Tomatoes:
    1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed and drained
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    Fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
    8 ounces ricotta cheese
    2 to 4 large heirloom tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch slices, for a total of 8 slices

    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the skillet. Place in a bowl and hold for assembly.

    Place pepper, salt, ricotta cheese into a non-reactive bowl and toss together until well incorporated. Set aside.

    Wipe the sauté pan dry and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper and place on the pan. Brown for 1 minute on each side and remove to a platter. Hold for assembly.

    To serve:
    Place 8 slices of eggplant on a platter. Top each slice with one slice of tomato. Divide the spinach over each. Top the spinach with 1 ounce of ricotta. Place the second slice of eggplant over each to top the “sandwich”. Serve immediately.

    For the Sautéed Red Cabbage:
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 medium red onion, peeled and cut julienne
    1 head red cabbage, core removed and cut julienne
    1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
    Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

    Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté until it is well wilted. Add the vinegar and stir together. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

    For the Barley and Broccoli Risotto:
    2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
    3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
    1 small white onion, peeled and diced finely
    3 cups barley
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    8 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade*
    3 cups broccoli, florets separated, stems peeled and diced small
    Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

    Add oil to a non-reactive skillet over medium high heat. Heat until shimmering, add garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the barley and cook while stirring for 5 minutes. Add the wine and 6 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli and the rest of the stock, if needed. Stir together and cover. Leave on simmer for 10 more minutes. Take off the heat, remove cover and add salt and pepper to taste.

    Keep warm until ready to serve.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Eggplant Prep 101

      To prevent eggplant from oxidizing once you have cut it and to leach out the bitter tasting solanine, there are several techniques utilizing salt. One way is the salt-water method described in this recipe. Another way is to pour salt over the cut eggplant, place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover the eggplant with another piece of parchment, top with a second sheet pan and add weight such as canned goods or bags of dry beans. Place the pan in the refrigerator at least one hour or as long as overnight. Be sure to wipe the liquid and salt off before using in your preparation. It does not have to be dredged in salt, but you can be liberal with your application as you will be taking most of the salt off when you wipe it with a paper towel.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Non-reactive Pans

      Non-reactive cookware will not react to acid ingredients, such as citrus. When a recipe calls for a non-reactive pot, pan or bowl, use stainless steel, clay, enamel, glass, or plastic.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Julienned Vegetables

      Julienne is an attractive way to prepare vegetables for a special meal. Also called a “matchstick” cut, a julienne is 1/8 x 1/8 x 2-3 inches in length. To prepare a julienne, trim the ends and sides of the vegetable to make a rectangular shape, then make uniform-size cuts at 1/8 inch intervals. Trim the julienne to the desired length and compost the remaining small ends, or use them for stock.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      A Hot (Vegetable) Stock Tip!

      Nothing beats flavorful, homemade stock. It’s easy to make your own and, if you do, all your recipes will be vastly improved. Here is my own recipe for a savory vegetable stock.

      Vegetable Stock
      4 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
      6 stalks celery, diced large
      1 celery root, peeled and diced large
      2 carrots, peeled and pencil cut
      2 red bell peppers, stem removed, seeded, membrane removed, diced large
      1 rutabaga, peeled and diced large
      2 parsnips, peeled and pencil cut
      2 bulbs fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
      1 tablespoon black peppercorns
      2 bay leaves
      4 sprigs of thyme, left whole