Once I made fresh ricotta, it should go without saying that I couldn't wait to use it in a recipe. Inspired by eggplant gratin (but then completely abandoning any recipe I had researched), I set out on yet another adventure.
This is a simple dish, but very satisfying. I would happily serve this to my vegetarian friends at a dinner party, but I don't know that I would otherwise make it in this incarnation any time soon. Don't get me wrong, it was wonderful, kind of like an eggplant lasagna without the noodles; but as I was eating it I was immediately struck with other ideas. Mostly, the ricotta "custard" was so wonderful--light, fluffy, and savory--that I plan to make it on its own and serve it, almost like a quiche, in a fat slice alongside a simple salad.
Eggplant Ricotta "Custard"
1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and sliced into thinner than .5 inch slices
1 batch homemade goats milk ricotta (about a heaping cup)
.5 cup half and half (more if necessary)
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
freshly ground pepper
1 cup jarred marinara (I used Classico Fire Roasted Tomato)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet--enough to cover the pan generously, about .25 inch--until near smoking. Fry the epplant slices in batches until golden on each side; drain on paper towels. The eggplant will soak up a bit of the oil, so expect to add to the pan between batches.
While frying your eggplant, mix the ricotta, eggs, .5 cup parmesan, half and half, and about .5 tsp salt and .25 tsp pepper in a large bowl. You want a loose, wet mixture, much thinner than you would make for lasagna or manicotti. Add more half and half if necessary (if your ricotta came out dry you may need to do this).
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Place a layer of half of the eggplant at the bottom of a shallow baking dish, top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, half of the remaining parmesan, a few dollops of the ricotta mixture, and most of the marinara sauce. Top with the remaining eggplant, the rest of the ricotta mixture, a few dollops of the remaining marinara, and the remaining parmesan.
Place dish, uncovered, in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and cook for about 25 minutes more, until golden and bubbly on top. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then serve.
I served this with the warm mushroom salad I'm posting next, but it turned out to be too much and I think it would be nice with something more simple. Also, like I said before, the star here was the ricotta custard. Next time I make some cheese I am going to bake the custard alone in a tart pan and let it shine without any competition. Still, very good and worth trying!