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(Eggplant Custard Gratin). Sprinkle the eggplant slices on both sides with salt, spread them out on a tray and leave for 30 minutes. Sponge dry with paper towels. In a large frying pan, pour in olive oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and place over medium heat. Fry the eggplant slices, in batches, in the hot oil until golden and tender at the stem ends, turning once, about 10 minutes. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off any oil. Preheat an oven to 450. In the same frying pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook gently until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes and salt to taste and increase the heat to high. Toss until the moisture from the tomatoes evaporates, about 15 minutes. Set aside. In a mixing bowl break up the ricotta cheese and the eggs with a whisk. Add half of the grated cheese, cream, and salt and pepper to taste and whisk to the consistency of a pourable cream. Line a 6 cup gratin dish with about half of the eggplant slices in a single layer, pressing them in place. Grind over some pepper. Tear basil leaves into fragments and scatter over the eggplant. Sprinkle lightly with half of the remaining grated cheese and then spread over the tomato mixture. Arrange the remaining eggplant slices on top in a single layer, pressing the firmly in place. If there are a few extra slices, press them on top. Pour over the cheese-egg mixture and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350=B0. Bake until the custard surface is swelled and golden with no depression in the middle, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
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