The summer is almost over (with 2 weeks left to it), but the summer food does not have to go. Summer comes with all these fresh veggies at their peak of ripeness giving us endless possibilities for creative cooking, that does not have to be confined in the salad making. In this recipe I am making a dish that is largely inspired by a Raw Food class I recently attended in New York City. The class is regularly offered in California by Gisselle Gordon, but if you are lucky you might catch Gisselle in one of her trips. My views on Raw Food as a diet perspective are outlined in the previous posts, but regardless the fact that I largely disagree with the claims, I cannot overlook the taste aspects of it especially what it comes loaded with fresh ingredients in a way you have never seen before. This is actually a great way to few all these diets, focus on the taste and the appearance of the food, don’t dismiss them just because you don’t agree with their claims. It is called being open-minded, and in the culinary world it can take you very very far.
We have discussed the Eggplant as an ingredient in this blog before. It was actually the second post ever posted in this blog when it was still hosted at the blogger.com. The term that is vaguely known and little understood is the Napoleon. Most of us, know Napoleon as the great French general and Emperor. Some other knows a dude named Napoleon Dynamite. Few know Napoleon us something you are eating. The original food was just a pastry and was called Mile Feuille which translated in English means thousand leaves. Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), alternating with two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière). The name Napoleon by no means is related to the emperor, or the emperor is not related to the pastry. The variant name of Napoleon appears to come from Napolitain, the French adjective for the Italian city of Naples, but was then later altered by association with the name of Emperor Napoleon I of France.
Nowadays The term Napoleon has been expanded to include any layered pastry of food that consists of alternating layers of a solid and flat food item with another food that is either creamy or a fine mixture of an assortment of foods. So for example if you make a tower of cream crackers with cheese wheeze in between you have a cracker cheese wheeze Napoleon. In this post we will make a Napoleon with eggplant and a simple pico de gallo that is dressed with a herb sauce. The whole plate takes sometime to prepare but most of it is dicing and blending. So let’s get to it.
For this recipe we will need:
- Two large eggplants 1 lb each
- Two medium tomatoes
- One kumato tomato
- One avocado
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of water
- A bunch of cilantro
- A bunch of parsley
- A bunch of chives
- 1 tbsp chipotle
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
Start with the onion by cutting it in half.
Remove the skin…
and cut lengthwise.
Slice parallel to the board.
Cut perpendicular to both cuts to a fine dice.
Just like this. The finer the better. But don’t use a food processor.
Scoop it into a bowl.
Now for the poblano pepper. Remove the top.
And pull out the seed stem. You might need to use a knife to release them easier.
Open it and cut it in thin strips.
Gather up the strips and cut them in a fine dice again.
Same identical process for the jalapeño.
The avocado will be similar process, but a little different.
Cut by rolling your knife around the equator of the avocado along the longest dimension.
And them with a twist, spit open the avocado in half.
Throw your knife on the pit to make an incision.
The pit will stick on the knife and with a twist it will come right off.
With a spoon, spoon out the avocado meat.
Set it on the board and do the same thing as before.
Cut vertical slices of the avocado.
And then horizontal.
Which you will follow with the more cuts to make again a fine dice.
Similar treatment for the kumato tomato.
Vertical, horizontal and perpendicular cuts.
Similar treatment of the tomatoes. You can actually use any tomato you want to give color and taste variation.
Cut the lime and squeeze it over the diced vegetables.
Use as much as you think it is required. It will flavor the dice and will also prevent browning of the avocado.
Add some chipotle powder.
Add salt and pepper and mix again.
Add the cumin. Have a taste and adjust with lime, salt and pepper. Let it in the fridge for the flavors to get to know each other.
The meantime start by slicing the eggplant. Remove and discard the lower part that is essentially just skin.
Cut in 1/4 inch slices.
When you reach the top discard the top part. Many cooks will tell you that you need to salt the eggplant to remove the water that can be bitter. This is not really working. It will over-salt the eggplant and will not remove the bitterness. The bitterness is indeed in the liquid but it is only noticeable when it is concentrated. This happens when there is little or no watering of the plants. My grandmother always used to water the eggplants, wait for one hour and harvest afterwards. Bottom line you cannot undo a bitter eggplant.
Add some oil on the pan to coat it, but not a lot. We need just to ensure they will not stick to the pan, not fry. I find the spray-on olive oil very handy on this. Turn the pan on medium heat.
Add the eggplants in a way that they have full contact with the pan and not overlapping.
Once they brown from one side turn them on the other.
Just like this. Turn the heat higher might look as a good idea, but will burn the eggplant without cooking them.
Continue with the rest of them. You can off course do that on a sheet pan in the oven too.
Now let’s make a sauce. In a food processor or even better in a blender add the herbs. Chives.
Parsley. Whole bunch, just cut it in half.
Fill up the blender.
Cover it up.
Blend on high and add some water to aid the process.
Retrieve the vegetable mixture and add 2-3 tbsp of it in the blender.
Start blending it.
While is blending add the olive oil to make an emulsion.
Add the salt. You will need quite a bit of salt as this is required. I must mention here that the idea of this particular sauce came from the class Gisselle had. If you use a blender it will make everything to a fine soup. No detectable parts of the herbs. Here because I don’t have a blender I used a food processor and the result was not as fine. I had to pass it through a strainer.
You will need to assist it with a spatula.
All this is fiber mass that in a blender will have been blended into the sauce. Now we have to discard it.
Here is the final sauce. A bright green and because we had the oil it has a high viscidity and a pleasant creamy taste.
Finally time to start building the Napoleon. Start by adding the sauce to the plate.
About 1/4 cup of the sauce.
Place the first piece of the eggplant. To level things off I had to use two pieces.
Add the pico de gallo.
Follow that with a few more alternating layers.
Until you build it to a satisfactory hight.
Add some more sauce. You notice that there is some liquid that came out for the pico de gallo but that is normal.
If you want you can add more sauce on the top.
Or just decorate with the pico de gallo.
And here it is. A thing of beauty. It is not fully raw, I know. But the eggplant raw is gross. You can use any other vegetable instead too. And even more you can use the pieces separately. A soup, pico de gallo and the roasted eggplant. This is just an amazing dish with very low-calorie count and many health benefits.
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Summer Food: Eggplant Napoleon
A great refreshing dish that is especially suited to the hot summer weather.
2 lbs eggplants
2 medium tomatoes
1 tomato for color (kumato)
1 poblano chili
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of water
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of chives
1 tbsp chipotle
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
- Cut the onion, the poblano chili, the tomato, the avocado, and the regular tomatoes into uniform fine dice.
- Mix them in a bowl.
- Season the mixture with salt and pepper, cumin, chipotle and paprika.
- Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices.
- On a medium heat roost the eggplant.
- In a blender blend the chives, parsley and cilantro with the water.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil to create an emulsion.
- If the emulsion contains broken pieces of the herbs, strain it through a fine mesh strainer.
- Add the sauce at the bottom of the plate, and alternate the eggplant layers with the pico de gallo.
- You can substitute eggplant with other vegetables like zucchini that can be eaten raw.