Eggplants might be common in the Mediterranean kitchen, but can become bland if not deep fried or combined with something intense, like feta. At least this is what one of us believes-the other one doesn’t. In any case, this mille-feuille applies to hard-core eggplant aficionados and the ones that need something extra to go with them.
As an extra challenge for this recipe, we sourced all ingredients from a range of 3km. We bought the tomatoes, the eggplants and the peppers from a local farmer and the feta from Stratoula, the best dairy producer in the area, according to Popi, whose olive oil we used.
- 1,5 kg eggplants,peeled in stripes and cut into 1cm thick slices
- 3 medium potatoes (350g), cut into thin slices
- olive oil, for brushing the eggplant and potato slices
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce (4 cups)
- 1,5kg ripe tomatoes
- 1,5-2 tsp sugar (depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
To assemble the mille-feuille
- 200g green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 300g feta cheese, crumbled
- one pinch of dried oregano
- a good drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle the eggplant slices generously with salt and let them sit in a colander for an hour. Rinse the eggplant slices in plenty of water to remove the salt, firmly squeeze a few pieces at a time in the palm of your hand to draw out almost all the moisture, and then pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.
Preheat your oven grill to high temperature.
Grill the eggplants in two batches.Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush each slice on both sides with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill 15-20 minutes, turning once and rotating pan halfway through, until soft and golden brown on each side. You might need to remove any slices that are thinner which will have cooked faster. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and the potato slices. Be careful not to burn the potatoes as they cook much faster than the eggplants. (Instead of grilling you can choose to deep fry the eggplants and potatoes. Deep fry in batches in olive oil, place every fried batch on a plate covered with paper towel and sprinkle with salt).
To prepare the sauce you need to blanche and peel the tomatoes. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Slice a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato.Working in batches, immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the tomato skins split open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to a large bowl of cold water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use a knife or your fingers to peel the skin off the tomatoes.
Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes in the food processor. Put the tomato pulp in a low wide saucepan over high heat. Add salt, olive oil and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered. Continue simmering for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt and sugar if needed.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (fan)
Divide eggplant slices into two stacks, reserving the best looking largest pieces for the top layer. In a lightly greased oven proofed dish (mine was 24x34cm) place the potatoes in a single layer. Add 1/3 of the tomato sauce, arrange 1/3 of the green pepper strips and sprinkle with the 1/3 of the feta. Add a layer of eggplant and repeat with the 1/3 of the tomato sauce, peppers and feta.Add the final layer of eggplants and add the last 1/3 of the tomato sauce, arrange the rest of the peppers and the remaining feta. Sprinkle with the dried oregano, season with freshly ground black pepper and finish with a good drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve in room temperature.
You can keep it in the refrigerator well covered for 2-3 days and bring it in room temperature before serving.