|First attempt at "plating"|
Peacocking: a term "The Pickup Artist" uses to rationalize using feather boas to pick up chicks. I have no idea in what setting or situation a feather boa on a man is attractive, but to each their own I guess. What I suppose peacocking is supposed to mean is flaunting your best features in order to attract the opposite sex. That makes a lot of sense, but I'm not sure when feather boas are ever effective.
Nearly two years ago, when The Boyfriend and I (I've yet to pick out a pseudonym for him, he just suggested "Cee" because he's original like that, oof) first started dating, I was doing somewhat of a culinary peacocking. Though the relationship was blossoming nicely and I was in a state of utter bliss I decided I would take it a step further and really seal the deal: I'd cook him a magnificent dinner.
At the time, I was living in the city and he was a two hour drive away. For one of his first trips out to visit me I picked a fancy sounding dinner that was also healthy (Eggplant Stacks, from "Cook Yourself Thin"). I remember after much preparation finally sitting down to dinner with him in my apartment's tiny kitchen, watching him take a bite, then taking my own bite. I was immediately disappointed, this was not my best. It wasn't even close to my best. I KNEW I should have gone with my old reliable, baked mac and cheese! Why did I--
He loved it.
I couldn't believe it. I didn't hate the dish really, it just totally did not do it for me--I had been convinced that the culinary peacocking had tanked, I had made a sad, bland little unimpressive meal. I thought he was just being nice in saying he enjoyed it, but on a recent stroll through the produce department of the local supermarket he turned to me and said "Hey, why don't you ever make that eggplant thing?"
Uhhh... Because I didn't like it? It was not good? But after mentioning it in passing at least three more times, "no, I really liked it! It was really good!" I decided to give it another try, albeit with some modifications so that I could enjoy the meal as well. It's almost as if I took a traditional eggplant parmasean apart and then put it back together again, half the traditional version and half the slimmed-down "Cook Yourself Thin" version.*
Though I'm far past going out of my way to clumsily peacock for him these days, it's still a great feeling to create something that puts a smile on his face. Extra points when I enjoy the meal as well!
Deconstructed, Reconstructed Eggplant "Parm"
makes three servings of two eggplant stacks each
- 1 Large Eggplant
- 3 tbs balsamic vinaigrette
- 1 egg
- 3 tbs flour
- 1 cup Panko
- 12 tbs pesto (homemade pesto makes all the difference!)
- 12 tbs marinara sauce (again, go homemade! This is my new favorite sauce recipe.)
- 3 tbs feta cheese
- 6 slices of fresh mozerella
- 1 tomato, sliced
- frying oil of choice (I used mostly olive oil with some canola)
- salt and pepper
Note: all tablespoon amounts are approximate, you may find you need a little more or less to complete the recipe as directed
-Cut the eggplant into 1/2" thick slices. Arrange on a cookie sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Salt and pepper the tops of the slices, then brush a light coating of balsamic vinaigrette over each slice. Broil until soft, about five minutes or less. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool just enough to be able to handle them without burning yourself.
-Lightly flour the broiled eggplants and dip each in egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry in oil until light brown, about a minute or two each side. Be careful not to burn! Pat with paper towels to remove excess oil.
-Arrange half of the eggplant slices (there will be about six) on the cookie sheet. Layer each with a tomato slice, mozzarella slice, and about a tablespoon of pesto and marinara. Top with a second fried eggplant slice and another tablespoon of each sauce. Sprinkle with feta cheese.
*I made a few the original way, just in case he ended up liking them better. The verdict? "The fried ones are good, but I think I like the first kind better." Good thing I did both!
**"The Pickup Artist" is a terrible show, btw.