As I was planning a garden-to-table menu for the Winter Solstice I knew that I wanted to use roasted eggplant from the freezer, but I couldn’t find a recipe that I felt worked well with the rest of the menu. So many eggplant recipes involve tomato sauce, and they just didn’t go with the scallops and kale or the potatoes and leek in cream that I was also preparing.
I preserve my garden eggplant by peeling, slicing and roasting it in the oven until just barely browned and tender. It is roasted plain, without oil. I decided that it would be good to use feta cheese and chopped figs with these eggplant rounds, but it still needed something moist to hold it all together. “What about fennel puree?” my husband asked. Brilliant!
This dish was wonderful – unusual, delicious and rich without being heavy. It could also be made without the cheese if you or your guests are vegan. This can be served as a side dish or first course.
This recipe serves 8 to 10
1/2 cup chopped onions or leeks
3 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced
water/stock/or wine for cooking fennel
Roasted slices of 2 eggplants – frozen or freshly made.
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese (I used sheep feta)
1 1/2 cup mission figs, stems removed and chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon Zaatar spice mixture
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions or leeks in a tablespoon of olive oil until they are limp. Add fennel slices, a couple of tablespoons of water/stock or white wine and cover with the heat on low. Cook fennel and onions for about ten minutes until soft. Put this into a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the Zaatar and salt and pepper to taste. (If you don’t have Zaatar you could substitute cumin)
Slightly thaw and separate the eggplant slices if they were frozen. Pair the slices up with similar sizes. In between each slice put some of the crumbled feta and a few pieces of chopped figs. Spread about two teaspoons of the fennel puree on the top slice and place it over the other ingredients. After all the pairs of eggplant slices are filled, spread a thin layer of the fennel puree on top of each. Dust with smoked paprika and sprinkle with a few pine nuts.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about twenty to twenty-five minutes.