recipes

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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The Island Market

I am lucky enough to have a second family that lives on a little strip of paradise in Maine called Islesboro. I am also lucky enough that these amazing people own The Island Market, a specialty grocery store open all year round that caters to both the locals and summer vacationites. This store has everything from the freshest fish and shellfish to the most mouth-watering prepared foods and desserts. The two behind this gem are David and Linda Mahan (better known as Shake and Loony); chefs, butcher, grill master, baker, hostess, inn keeper…they do it all! As is expected and anticipated every year, they serve the most delicious food, and as a special house guest (a title I earned by spending many a hot summer day stocking shelves) I have access to the plethora of fresh ingredients in their fridge and cupboard. Some of those goodies include fresh eggs from Loony’s chickens, homemade broccoli-cauliflower hummus, fresh greens grown right there on the island, and much more.

Shake and Loony also previously owned a restaurant together on the same island so their cooking game is out of this world! One can anticipate the most phenomenal variety of meats from Shake such as a pork tenderloin cooked to perfection, addiction-inducing chicken wings, a killer piece of steak, or THE ORIGINAL bacon wrapped hot dog (his specialty). Loony’s specialities (seen below) include pies with minimal ingredients and maximum flavor, cakes with buttercream frosting that carries you away on a cloud, and recently added gluten free options. She also makes a kick-ass platter so appealing to the eye (and stomach) you’ll ask no questions and want to eat everything on it!

 

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Asiago Bagel (Scratch Bakery, Portland, ME) topped w/ Broccoli Hummus, Avocado, Tomatoes, and a Farm Fresh Egg

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Charcuterie & Broccoli Hummus Platters

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Pork Tenderloin w/ Mushroom Sauce, Baked Rosemary Sweet Potatoes, Walnut Brussel Sprout Slaw, and Steam Green beans

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Vanilla Cake w/ Marscapone Filling & Orange Buttercream Frosting

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Blueberry Pie w/ Blueberries, Cinnamon, Lemon Zest & a Handmade Crust

If you are ever looking for a get away that will completely remove you from reality I highly suggest a vacation to this special little island. A quick 20-minute ferry ride across the Penobscot Bay will transport you to another world full of lush scenery, delectable fresh & local foods, and amazing people!

**All of this delicious produce, meat, and recipes can be found at the fabulous Island Market!!**