Christmas 2015 brought a rare and special gift for me, both my adult children and their partners were able to be back in our home for Christmas dinner. My son lives in St. Paul, Minn. these days and my daughter is even farther away in Portland, Ore., so this was truly a very special holiday for me, and one that ended up producing some new holiday dishes I recommend to you, especially if you’re a fan of eggplant as I am.
I was creating an extensive low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar Christmas menu but also was thinking about my daughter’s vegetarian diet when I decided to give my children a menu challenge of their own — we would stage Battle Eggplant ala the old Iron Chef show, a program we enjoyed watching together when they were younger.
I presented them each with a large eggplant and opened our kitchen to them in terms of spices and other ingredients. Anything we had was open to use, much like the Iron Chef shows. My wife’s family, which came after the cooking was done to eat dinner with us as well, would be the judges and not know who made which dish.
Both teams dived in and created two amazing dishes. My daughter’s eggplant dip was judged the winner, mainly because my father-in-law didn’t like having the skin of the eggplant still on the dish my son and daughter-in-law made. I enjoyed both dishes and ate both that day.
I’ve asked both young Frank offspring for their recipes, my son won that competition, sending his back first. So here it is, dubbed Jerusalem Eggplant Surprise. Try it and let us know what you think. You can take the skin off if you like, I actually liked it on.
Jerusalem Eggplant Surprise
1 eggplant, cut into discs
2 fennel, julienned
2 oranges, sliced, zested and squeezed
Half cup of chestnuts, toasted
Pinch of dill
Handful of scallions
Cut eggplant into slices to create disc shaped pieces
Layer eggplant into baking dish and cant with olive oil
Cut fennel lengthwise into slices and layer into dish
Slice 1 orange, zest orange peel onto eggplant and fennel, place orange slices aside, use juice from second orange squeezed onto vegetables in baking dish
Toast chestnuts, add to dish with eggplant and fennel
Add whole scallions to baking dish after removing top and bottom of stems
Drizzle olive oil over top of all ingredients in baking dish
Cook for half hour in oven until eggplant become soft and scallions begin to brown
Add orange slices, paprika and dill to baking dish
Bake for another 5-10 minutes until oranges start to caramelize