Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas dinner

This year, I wanted to make something special but not difficult. Turning holiday meals into an ordeal inhibits enjoyment for me and for my family. Everyone wants to help and I just want them to go away so I can work work work, which is not at all the spirit I like to cultivate at this or any time of year. With my mighty principles in mind, I had no idea what I wanted to cook for our Christmas meal and waited for inspiration. It came on December 22nd during a trip to the local upscale grocery store. I spied a bottle of pomegranate molasses on the shelf and remembered coming across a fabulous-looking recipe that called for it once while I was living in The Hague. At the time, I had no clue where I might find pomegranate molasses (I struggled to find baking soda!), so I dismissed the recipe...but the ingredient name stuck. And here it was. Of course I bought it and brought it home, where I turned to epicurious to find what I could do with it. I came across this recipe, and Christmas Eve dinner was planned! I served it with baby spinach tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with sultanas and cashews and we enjoyed some local cleanskins Classic White wine. This was definitely fancy enough for a special occasion without being painful in the least to prepare. My only suggestion is go easy on the pomegranate molasses. It has quite a tangy bite, which some may love but others may not.

Crisp Cheese-Filled Eggplant Sandwiches with Pomegranate Molasses
Bon Appétit | September 2003
by chef Brenda Langton
Cafe Brenda, Minneapolis, MN

Pomegranate molasses is sold at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets; panko is in many supermarkets' Asian foods aisle.
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
1 large long eggplant, cut crosswise into sixteen 1/3-inch-thick rounds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
4 ounces coarsely grated sharp provolone cheese (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pomegranate molasses

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray, then brush each with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix panko, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Place flour in another medium bowl. Whisk egg and 1/4 cup water in shallow bowl. Coat each eggplant slice with flour; shake off excess, then dip into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko. Place on prepared sheets. Bake until bottoms are golden brown, turning once, about 12 minutes per side. Cool slightly on sheets. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Cool slightly. Mix in both cheeses, parsley, and basil. Season with pepper.
Divide cheese mixture among 8 eggplant slices on 1 baking sheet; spread to cover. Top with remaining eggplant, pressing to compact and making 8 sandwiches. Bake until eggplant is crisp, about 15 minutes. Divide sandwiches among 4 plates; drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

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