Firenze

Eggplant, Fig, & Ricotta Stack

Fig season is in full swing here in Florence, and I must admit I am LOVING it. I had never tried fresh figs until earlier this summer back in the states, and they were okay. However, the figs here in Italy seem to be a whole other fruit! They are sweet, succulent morsels full of a unique pulp and sticky sap. They come in both black and white varieties and are about the size of an oblong golf ball. White figs are on the sweeter and a little tarter side, while black figs have a more subtle and decadent flavor. I am truly infatuated with them both! In fact, earlier today I picked some up at the local market and couldn’t stop myself from snacking on one as I strolled past the other vendors.

But I digress. Since these figs are just such a prime produce item of the moment I wanted to incorporate them into an actual meal, not just an all day snack. So again I dove into the depths of the internet and found a variety of pairings with cheeses such as ricotta and goat. I am in Italy after all, so I went with something that hit close to home, the ricotta. Along with more pondering and considering the other seasonal produce I decided on a take on eggplant lasagna consisting of layers of sautéed eggplant, ricotta, and sliced figs atop a bed of spinach. In my opinion, it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, but that may be too cheesy of an Italian comparison (oops, there I go again!). My humor is usually much more along the lines of sarcasm than puns, I promise!

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Ingredients

1/2 of a medium-sized eggplant

4-6 fresh figs

Ricotta

Spinach

Rosemary

Salt & pepper

Oil & Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1. Slice the eggplant into medallions, about 1/2″ thick

2. Roughly chop the rosemary

3. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and vinegar and season both sides with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let marinate for about 5 minutes

4. While eggplant is marinating heat sauté or grill pan over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan so none of the pieces overlap.

5. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, checking on them once or twice, and flipping them after 5 minutes.

6. While eggplant is cooking, quarter fresh figs to be layered between the eggplant. I also like to take the ricotta out of the fridge while the eggplant is cooking so it gets closer to room temp, as to not cool down the dish.

7. The eggplant will be done once it’s tender and the skin is slightly shriveling. Make a nice bed of spinach leaves on a plate or bowl and begin building your tower! I went with a pattern of eggplant, ricotta, fig. And in regards to the amount of ricotta per layer, that really depends on how much you like ricotta 😉 But I spread about a tablespoon of ricotta between each layer and could fit about 4 pieces of fig.

8. Top with a dollop of ricotta and any extra fig and enjoy!

All of these measurements should make enough for 1 dish, but could also be enough for 2 smaller stacks or even multiple mini stacks if you wanted to make this for an appetizer (may be a little messy, but who cares when it tastes this good?!).

I really enjoyed making this dish because it seemed more like an arts and crafts project to me cooking. And I must say folks, this dish is as good as it looks. It’s sweet, savory, and oh so creamy. The perfect transition dish from summer into fall when we all wouldn’t mind something warm and cozy in our stomachs.  Embrace your inner child and really play around with the construction (or deconstruction) of this loose take on no-bake eggplant lasagna.

As always I love to hear feedback, so let me know how this dish worked for you! Did you add some more savory? Bake it like a more traditional lasagna? Make it into a pizza perhaps?! My favorite thing about cooking is seeing all the different interpretations of a dish!

 

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All’ Antico Vinaio

Here begins my food blogging journey of my year abroad, in Florence, Italy! I am so happy I found All’ Antico Vinaio early on, because it is a gold mind of cured meats and cheeses. Tucked away on Via de Neri, a few streets up from the Arno river, this sandwich & charcuterie shop is anything but unknown. It has been rated by all the top food and travel websites as one of the places to get a phenomenal sandwich in Florence, which also means there is always a line. But, trust me when I say that not matter how long the line, it is worth the wait one hundred times over. All’ Antico Vinaio offers two types of dining; One were you can sit indoors in there intimate dining room with a antipasto platter of meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, and jams while enjoying one of their many bottles of wine ( This is Italy after all, so I emphasize bottles).

…and this is the small!

Or you can venture a few meters across the street to their original claim to fame, and host of the infamous line, their sandwich shop. Here there are 2-3 men at any given time preparing the freshest, meatiest, cheesiest, most mouthwatering sandwiches with a sense of style and grace I never thought I’d use to describe sandwich construction. For starters, their menu consists of white writing on tall, thin chalk boards at the entrance to the shop. They make one thing, and one thing only which is Foccacia Misto, and rings in at 5 euro (7 if you splurge for the specialty meats). Listed below are all your cheese, spread, and vegetable options (which you can add as many as will fit in your sandwich for still 5 euro). Then listed on a separate board is the shining glory of your sandwich, the meats. It is stated very clearly at the bottom of the list that mixing meats is not allowed nor will it be tolerated. I believe they called it Blasphemy! There are at least 7 different meat options, 8 or so different cheeses to choose from, 6 types of spreads, and a variety of vegetable toppings. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but you will have plenty of time in line to decide, and even if you can’t, the guys behind the counter are super friendly and will even offer to build you their ideal sandwich. Also, while waiting in line be mindful and cautious of the men running back and forth between the restaurants with fresh stacks of their homemade foccacia.

For my first order, and I say first because I know for a fact I will be returning countless times, I went with proscuitto (freshly sliced as I wiped the drool from my face), pecorino toscano fresco, truffle crema, spicy eggplant, zucchini, arugula salad, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the man handed it to me over the counter the only words I could muster in my state of pure awe and excitement were “It’s so beautiful!”

Now to put this in perspective for you guys, this sandwich felt like I was cradling a small, soccer ball sized baby in my hands. It was wrapped up just so, making  it impossible for any of those delectable ingredients to fall out of the bottom, but leaving every other part of the sandwich exposed for me to dig right in. I did just that, and never looked back.

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The flavors were amazing. The meat was perfectly salty, the cheese had just the right bite, and let me tell you, you know nothing of paradise until you have had this truffle crema. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with this sandwich.

Since I plan to become a regular at this place I will be updating this post every time I try a new combination of love…I mean ingredients…which in this sandwich’s case could very well substitute for love. So be ready, and try your hardest to re-create these back in the states!