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Mmm -- always nice when lunch experiments work (Eggplant Stacks)
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jducoeur
AKA "Okay, what the heck do I do with this leftover eggplant?"

This Sunday was, among other things, Cooks' Guild. It was a great meeting -- almost all of the regulars showed up, and we collectively wound up cooking six different dishes. I brought along Rebecca, who is a friend of Anne and Darker's who has expressed some interest in SCA crafts. I forgot to look at cookbooks on Saturday, so Sunday morning I decided to go for my traditional safe route, pull up the online copy of the Manuscrito Anonimo (my pick for the best cookbook of the middle ages), and see what appealed. The answer was, "eggplant", so I bought some fixings on the way, and Rebecca and I did a couple of recipes from them.

Specifically, we did the Mahshi with Eggplants and Cheese, a sort of eggplant souffle, which I would judge as a noble failure: not bad, and could be improved, but didn't inspire folks. OTOH, the Eggplant Isfîriyâ, which are mostly the same recipe done as fritters, worked well -- even the folks who don't like eggplant thought they were pretty good.

Anyway, we only got through two of the three recipes I was thinking about -- we didn't have time to try the Dusted Eggplants (essentially triple-fried eggplant slices) -- so I was left with a spare eggplant. It's not Kate's favorite food, so she charged me to use it for lunch.

So today's project (actually, yesterday and today) has been to reverse-engineer the concept of the Eggplant Stack, a dish that I've gotten from Whole Foods a couple of times, which was solidly Okay But Not Great. It was a total win, so here it is for the record (and to remind me to write it up for the Cookbook eventually):

Eggplant Stacks
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 fat eggplant
Bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan
Two eggs, beaten (or substitute -- I used Egg Beaters, which were convenient)
A bit of kosher salt
Sundried Tomato Pesto
A few ounces of shredded cheese

Recipe
Dry the Eggplant: Slice the eggplant into medium-thickness disks, maybe 1/2" thick: try to wind up with 8 slices. Peel either before this or after. (I found it easier after.) Put in a colander; salt on both sides. Leave for an hour, flipping in the middle. The eggplant should express some water. Rinse it off, then bake on a cookie sheet in a single layer in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping once. (The eggplant can be set aside overnight at this point -- this is just about getting the excess liquid out.)

Bread the Eggplant: Mix equal parts bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a wide bowl. Coat the slices in the beaten egg, then thoroughly dredge in the crumb/cheese mixture. Lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until it begins to brown and crisp a little. (Note that it will brown faster on the bottom!)

Make the Stack: Put a small amount (~1 tsp) of pesto in a baking pan, then a slice of breaded eggplant on top. Add another small spoonful of pesto on that, and some shredded cheese. Don't go too heavy on the pesto, or it'll be oily. Repeat twice more, then put the fourth slice on top with just cheese over that, so you have a four-slice stack. Do the same with the other four slices.

Bake about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and enjoy.

Notes
In my first try, I cut the eggplant lengthwise. This works, but was wasteful and produced erratically-shaped slices. I suspect it would work better cutting crosswise circular slices instead.

One of the goals here was to *not* use tomato sauce, which tends to result in wetter eggplant than I like. This came out excellent, but illustrates that you need to be very gentle with the pesto -- I wasn't careful with it, and wound up with a small pool of oil in the pan.

I would bet that this would work just as well, and have a very different flavor profile, with other pestos. I suspect it would be great with basil pesto.
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Some of the recipes use coriander seed, which is very clear. When it just says coriander (as in Eggplant Isfîriyâ), does it mean cilantro?

Hmm -- interesting question. I generally interpret that as still meaning coriander seed, but I confess I'm no expert. Cilantro would produce a *wildly* different flavor profile. I suspect we'd need to check with Charles Perry (the translator) for a better answer...

Okay, that really *is* an interesting question. I hadn't previously realized how interchangeable "coriander" and "cilantro" are on the other side of the pond. And it turns out that in Charles Perry's "Medieval Arab Cookery", he consistently uses "coriander" for both, although with different tweaks of phrasing.

As it happens, though, in this edition, they are explicitly making the distinction -- see the Glossary, and note that "cilantro" does appear in some recipes.

That said, this translation was the work of many hands, so it is possible that there could be inconsistencies. So I can't be certain...

As one of the "many hands" involved in that translation... I was frequently uncertain which was meant myself, reading Huici Miranda's Spanish translation of the Arabic. In general when I saw "cilantro seco" I translated it as coriander, and just plain "cilantro" or "cilantro verde" as cilantro. (I don't recall seeing any references to "cilantro fresco".)

That sounds great! And I wish Mr Macaroni liked eggplant. I so rarely cook it.

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