Today I competed in the Loomis Eggplant Festival Cooking Contest and won 1st place with my (original recipe) eggplant dish: Crackling Eggplant Slices with Cheesy Aubergine “Butter”. The name is derived from the incredible texture of the breading, and I also used “eggplant” in the name twice without actually doing it. Aubergine is the word for eggplant typically used in old world Europe. I also used eggplant twice in the recipe. First, with the fried slices, second, with the eggplant “butter”/spread on the top.
The thing is though, I was the only participant in this year’s contest. So, while I was happy to take home the 1st place certificate, participant ribbon, and the $100 cash for winning, it did not feel all that special to win by default. I was surprised that absolutely no one else entered!
What felt great was walking in downtown Loomis, and seeing a few hundred people out having a good time. The weather here at the end of September/beginning of October is next to perfect, and there were lots of families taking advantage of that and having good old-fashioned fun at the festival. I wish my mom had been there with me today to see it, but she lives in Ohio and absolutely does not like eggplant!
The cooking contest organizer (Mary Jane Perkins) encouraged me to come back next year, and I certainly hope to do so, even though I am not sure I could top my creativity this year or back in 2008 when I made a CAKE with eggplant and won 2nd place.
Here’s my “winning” recipe from today. I hope you’ll try it for yourself. If you do, please let me know what you think.
Crackling Eggplant Slices with Cheesy Aubergine “Butter”
Appetizer Category (Serves 6-8)
1/4 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
1/4 Cup Cream Cheese
2 Tbs Butter
1 Roasted Eggplant with Skin Removed
You can prepare eggplant spread a day ahead of time. Slice an eggplant. lengthwise and drizzle it with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 425 for 45 mins and discard the skin. Scoop out the roasted flesh and place in a food processor with the mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and sea salt. Pulse until completely blended. Set aside.
Fried Eggplant Slices:
1 Eggplant Sliced into Rounds
1 Cup Crushed Pork Rinds
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
Combine pork rinds, cheese, and almond flour to create the “breading”. You’ll want to place the “breading” in a shallow container that will allow the slices to be dipped in. Slice the eggplant into rounds and salt, laying on paper towels to allow the excess moisture in the eggplant to seep out for 10 mins.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and when the eggplant has drained, dip the slices into the egg, and then into the breading.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet to bake, or prepare the slices in the air fryer. 350° in the oven until browned, or 370° in the air fryer for about 10 minutes.
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
1/4 Cup Capers
Meanwhile, fry the capers in olive oil until they become crispy and drain. Toast the pine nuts in a shallow pan until they become nice and toasty.
Top each fried/baked eggplant slice with some of the spread, and garnish with the crispy capers and toasted pine nuts. Top with fresh dill. Serve.