Jason and I went to college in a very small town. When I say it was a small town, I mean that the one CVS on Main Street was probably the most exciting place in town. Our campus was beautiful, but every once in a while we would get a little stir-crazy and decide that we HAD to get out of there and find somewhere to have a nice dinner. After about a couple years of having our “nice dinners” at the Chinese restaurant or the local wing joint, we stumbled upon a place in the next town over that would become our saving grace. It was an adorable little trattoria that sat on the corner of a sleepy downtown street, and we decided that we would try it out one Valentine’s day.
The inside of the place was so warm and charming, and once you stepped inside you completely forgot that you were in the middle of nowhere. The wait for a table was long, and it was so worth it.
The food was incredible. Maybe we felt that way because we were used to eating dining hall “food”, but either way we thought the food was amazing. They would serve this fresh-out-of-the-oven bread with the most incredibly rich and flavorful olive oil for dipping that made me feel like I had died and gone to heaven before the real meal even started. On this particular Valentine’s Day, we ordered an appetizer that knocked us off our feet so hard that neither of us have been able to forget it since that night.
The dish was fried eggplant wheels layered with goat cheese and prosciutto and topped with garlic aioli, and this is my version of it. I guess you could say I was feeling a little romantic today. That, and I had this eggplant from our CSA share box that I had no idea what to do with.
I left out the prosciutto (much to Jason’s chagrin…he lives for prosciutto) and came up with this simple and delicious appetizer that went perfectly with salads for our lunch today. The addition of some balsamic marinated grape tomatoes helps to cut the richness of the eggplant and cheese and gives the whole thing a nice balance. If you ever want to impress some guests, or just impress yourself, you should try this.
Eggplant Wheels with Goat’s Milk Brie
- 1 whole, large eggplant
- 1 round of goat’s milk brie (or other goat’s milk cheese)
- 2/3 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 c. grape tomatoes
- 1 T. balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- fresh basil (optional)
-Cut the grape tomatoes in half and place them in a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar, 1 t. olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Toss to coat and refrigerate until the rest of the dish is ready.
-Peel the skin from the eggplant and slice it into rounds about 1/4″ thick.
-Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
-While the oil is heating, whisk the egg well with 1 T. of water in a shallow dish. Empty the breadcrumbs into a separate shallow dish.
-When the oil is hot (it’s hot enough when it just starts to smoke a little), dip the eggplant slices in the egg first and then the breadcrumbs. Make sure the slices are completely covered in breadcrumbs, then shake of the excess and place in the hot oil.
-Fry the eggplant in batches, cooking until they are golden brown on both sides. Remove them to a cookie sheet when they’re finished. If the oil dries up while you’re frying, add more by the tablespoon.
-Remove the rind from the brie and slice it as thinly as you can into rounds (a serrated knife works best).
-Stack the eggplant and the brie slices, slightly offset from each other, and bake in a 300 degree oven until the cheese is melted (5-10 minutes). Remove from the oven and transfer to serving dishes with the marinated tomatoes on the side. Garnish with basil if desired. Makes 5 appetizer servings.
So delicious, and it brings back so many wonderful memories. On that same Valentine’s Day, Jason showed me a little surprise when we got back to the dorms.
My wedding band had arrived! I remember how I was FILLED with excitement and pure joy just looking at it and touching it and imagining it on my finger beside my engagement ring. I couldn’t stop staring at it. And I couldn’t get the smile off my face. We opened some bubbly and cherished the moment.
Cheers to delicious food that brings back wonderful memories.
Thanks for reading!