Eggplant with Bechemel and Cheese

September 22 - a couple slices of pizza at work
September 23 - BBQ from Smokin' Hicks
September 24 - Eggplant with bechemel and cheese and a green salad with carrots from our garden

My week started in a pretty amazing way, at least for a foodie.  I walked into to work to find to gorgeously round Sicilian eggplants sitting on my desk.  They were courtesy of a co-worker who grew them in his backyard garden.  Amazing, right?  There are few ingredients I like to cook with more than those that come fresh from someones garden.

Unfortunately these beauties had to wait until today to be cooked.  Before I go there though I want to tell you why else Monday started as a foodie's dream.  When one of my bosses rolled into work she handed me a gift from her parents, who I had hooked up with some great tickets to a baseball game and a TIFF premiere while they were in town.  As I held the gift, I could tell it was a book and a large one at that.  When I teared away the paper I saw the words "The Food of Spain." I couldn't have been more excited to received a new cookbook and one from Spain made it even better.  I have nothing like it so it's an ideal addition to my collection.

During lunch on Monday I spent some time thumbing through the book and sticking post-its on the recipes I just had to try.  One of those recipes happened to be perfect for my new eggplants.  I had every intention of making it during the week, but with the hours getting longer, the work getting more stressful and me getting more tired it just didn't happen.  So into the fridge the eggplants went until today.

This is actually a very simple recipe that comes together in under an hour with only about 20 minutes of active cook time.  It's filling and hearty, a perfect treatment for this perfect fall vegetable.  I paired it with a simple green salad with baby lettuce from the Farmer's Market and some fresh picked carrots from our backyard.  It might not be Monday, but we had a delicious meatless tonight.

Eggplant with Bechemel and cheese
adapted from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden

2 small eggplant - cut into approx 8 1/2" slices
1 1/4 cups of whole milk
4 Tbsps of butter
2 Tbsps all-purpose flour
3 oz Manchego or aged cheddar cheese - grated
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs - I run stale bread through my food processor and keep in a bag in the freezer
3 Tbsps chopped flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove - roughly chopped
1 Tbsps olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 375F. Steam the eggplant slices in a covered steamer over boiler water for 4-5 minutes, until they are very soft. Gently lift them out and arrange in 1 or 2 layers in a baking dish.
2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, until almost boiling.
3.  While the milk heats, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and stir vigorously over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
4.  Pour the hot milk in a little at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened and is smooth.  Cook over low, stirring for 10 minutes.   Add the cheese in a handful at a time, stirring to melt and combine with the sauce. Pour the sauce over the eggplant
5. Mix the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic & oil with a little salt and sprinkle over the top of the eggplant.
6.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Then place under the broil to get the topping golden brown.