Yes, you read that correctly – Eggplant with Chocolate, the fun dolce. Say what??
A favorite cookbook on my shelf, La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy (The Essential Source with 2,000 Authenitc Recipes), has some of the most interesting and unique dishes. The inside flap tells how a team of hungry researchers from Milan fanned out across Italy collecting authentic recipes. In 1953, they founded the Italian Academy of Cuisine which now has over 8,000 members. Their newest edition of La Cucina. La Tradizione a Tavola, has 1000 new recipes. I’ll probably hold off on buying that one for now, considering I have barely scratched the surface of the original 2000 recipes.
Each recipe includes the region of origin and sometimes the dish’s history or interesting lore. Many leave room for interpretation when it comes to curious ingredients or odd combinations. Despite its idiosyncrasies, La Cucina is a treasure trove of potential cooking pleasures especially if you love playing with new and unheard-of recipes from our favorite peninsula.
One such recipe, Eggplant with Chocolate, has been on my radar for some time. Each time I open La Cucina looking for a cool eggplant idea, there it is, this off-beat dish from Maiori on the Amalfi Coast. Some sources say this dish is a favorite for Ferrogosto picnics.
Think of this as the dessert version of Eggplant Parmesan, where the breaded, fried, and layered eggplant still provides the foundation, but chocolate ganache replaces the tomato sauce and almonds, pine nuts, and candied orange peel replace the cheese. Additionally, cinnamon and sugar give an added sweetness.
Here is my rendition of Eggplant with Chocolate, which is surprisingly yummy and an excellent conversation starter at dinner parties.
Eggplant with Chocolate
- 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium eggplants)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup bread crumbs or Panko
- ¼ cup olive oil (more as needed for frying)
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or bar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. limoncello (optional)
- ½ cup blanched and chopped almonds
- 5-6 strips candied orange peel
- ¼ cup pine nuts
Make the ganache
- In a medium saucepan, heat the cream almost to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Add the chocolate to the cream and whisk until chocolate is completely melted and a creamy consistency is reached. If desired, add a tablespoon of limoncello and stir to combine. Set aside. Best to use the warm ganache because it is much easier to apply when still warm.
Prep the Eggplant
- Peel and cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Heat 2-3 Tablepsoons of olive oil in a large skillet and fry eggplant in batches. First, dip each slice in beaten egg and coat with bread crumbs. Fry in olive oil about 5 minutes on each side, until each slice is crunchy and cooked through. Add more olive oil as needed.
- Remove from the saucepan and set the cooked slices on paper towels to absorb extra olive oil. Sprinkle each slice with cinnamon and sugar.
Layer the Dish
- Coat the bottom of your serving dish with a generous spoonful of ganache. Place eggplant slices on top to form the bottom layer. Drizzle a layer of ganache and sprinkle almonds and pine nuts. Add another layer of eggplant slices, more ganache and nuts. Continue to layer until ingredients are gone. Finish with a few peices of candied orange peel.
- For individual servings, place a spoonful of ganache on the bottom of a serving dish, and add a single slice of eggplant. Continue layering as explained above using one slice for each layer.
- Serve right away or refrigerate for up to 2 days. This dish gets better after refrigeration, so it is possible to make it ahead of time.
Other fun dolce…