This dish was the first course to a recent dinner party I prepared. I love eggplant, and especially love it fried and crispy. My first thought was to make a Napoleon – rounds of fried eggplant stacked in a tower form with layers of some dairy component and a sauce. It gives a nice combination of flavors and textures with visually appealing plating, perfect for entertaining. Typically I would prepare this dish with an Italian spin; ricotta cheese, tomato sauce and fresh herbs like basil and oregano. For this version, I decided to give it a more eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spin. I decided the main flavor profile would be Za’atar. This is an ancient and incredibly fragrant spice blend with Arabic origins and is so versatile it is perfect for anything from flavoring grilled meats to accenting baked goods. This blend is typically based in marjoram and thyme, but often includes herbs like sumac or oregano. Za’atar almost invariably contains sesame seeds which lend a perfect nuttiness to the woodsy notes of the herbs. I thought it would be the perfect complement to the enigmatic and herbaceous quality of the eggplant. I also decided to ditch the cheese and opted for a rich and creamy, garlic infused strained yogurt to serve as the layering ingredient. This offered a tangy and savory contrast to layers the earthy and aromatic eggplant. This recipe can be adapted with different seasonings in the flour, by marinating the eggplant, or by trying other creamy cheese or sauce options. Enjoy!
- 1 Large or 2 Medium Eggplants
- 2 Cups Flour
- 2 + 1 Tablespoons Za’atar Spice (separated)
- Sea Salt
- 2 Cups Canola Oil (or any high heat combination)
- 4 Eggs
- 12 oz Greek Yogurt
- 1 Head of Garlic
- 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Cut the top off the head of garlic and place in a small baking dish. Pour the evoo over top to coat the now exposed cloves. Place in oven and roast for the duration of your preparation until brown and the cloves are buttery soft.
Cut the eggplant in ¼” to ½” thick rounds. Score each side in cross hatching pattern. Salt generously and place on a drying rack to allow the excess moisture to “sweat” out - 20 minutes.
Lightly beat the eggs, add a little milk if you like to create an egg wash. Combine the flour and 2 tablespoons Za’atar spice in a large shallow bowl. Heat canola oil in a large, wide sauté pan until it sizzles when you toss test pinch of flour in.
Once the eggplant have sufficiently “sweated” brush the excess salt off and season with 1 tablespoon Za’atar. Dip in the egg wash, and then generously coat each side in the seasoned flour mixture. Drop carefully in the hot oil and fry until crispy and gold brown, flipping as needed to ensure even cooking. Place back on the drying rack to allow excess oil to drain.
While eggplant is frying, remove the roasting garlic from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Using a fork, remove the soft cloves and add them to the Greek yogurt in a medium mixing bowl. Using the same fork, smash and incorporate evenly into the yogurt.
Once eggplant is fried and drained – 5 mins – you can begin plating. Using a spoon, smear a very small amount of yogurt onto your cold or room temperature plate. Place the largest of your eggplant rounds onto the smear, this will hold it in place. Repeat with as many plates as you are making. Then add a thick layer of the yogurt on top of bottom round. Place the next largest round on top. Repeat layers of yogurt and eggplant until you have desired height or run out of eggplant. Top with a final dollop of the yogurt and perhaps a fresh herb like chives. Serve immediately; this recipe should make 4 medium Napoleon towers.