While in Firenze a few weeks back, I spent an enjoyable evening at a cooking school named ‘In Tavola’ located in the Santo Spirito area just a few minutes walk from the Ponte Vecchio. We first prepared dinner upstairs at the cooking stations and although the class size was rather large, we prepared everything from gnocchi with a simple aglione (garlic and fresh tomato) sauce to a delicious chocolate torta with a delicious oozing chocolate center. Dinner was then served in a wonderful brick lined wine cellar in the basement. The antipasto we prepared was a simple but beautifully elegant Millefoglie di Verdure (or ‘leaves of vegetables’). I prepared it last weekend for a dinner party and it was definitely a hit. The little stacks of eggplant stuffed with a potato-zucchini-cheese filling were delicious. And I loved the little presentation trick that our little Italian instructor showed us. I tried to describe the technique below (Italian accent not included) – incredibly simple yet rather impressive! Just slice, twist and plate – perfecto!! So should you have an upcoming dinner party, this little antipasto might just do the trick to impress the friends and save you time in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Millefoglie di Vedure
Cooking in Firenze
1 large eggplant
2 small zucchini or 1 medium
1 boiled potato
Slices of Fontina cheese (about 8-10 depending on how many layers you make)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
More extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut the eggplant into thin slices horizontally.
3. Make the filling: Mash the potato with a potato masher into a medium bowl. Remove the peel from the zucchini using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Slice into very thin strips lengthwise. Dice into very small cubes. Add to the potato. Add the oregano and olive oil. Mix well. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit more olive oil. You want the mixture to bind together. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
4. Make the stacks: Line a baking dish or baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle some olive oil on the paper. Divide the eggplant slices so you have 3 slices per stack. One eggplant usually makes 4 or 5 stacks, depending on the size. Place the first slice for each stack on the paper, leaving a bit of distance between each. Top with some of the zucchini mixture and a slice of Fontina. Place the 2nd slice on top. Repeat with the filling. End with 3rd slice of eggplant.
5. Top the stacks with grated parmigiano. Drizzle the top with olive oil. Bake for about 25 minutes until brown and golden.
6. Let the stacks rest for about 5 minutes. To serve, place stack on a plate. Feel free to serve as is or slice as follows.
7. Slice each stack once from the center point out to the end (see photo below). At the outer rim of the stack at the location where the slit was just made, take the corners and fold under and back to ‘open up the stack’ (sort of a twisting movement) Place a basil leaf decoratively on the plate. Drizzle with olive oil and serve!