Napoleon Dynamites! Plum Tomatoes, Seasoned Breaded Egglant, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Fresh Basil

Yes, you heard me right.  These scrumptious layered belly-pleasers are called Napoleon Dynamites and almost EVERYTHING you need to make them comes from your local Farmer’s Market!  Need I say more?

The big version...

The big version...

The small version...

The small version...

 I am still trying to find the best way to “plate” these things – they’re downright messy once you get to presentin’ ’em.  But believe me, they make BEAUTIFUL COLORS inside your mouth!  We have here breaded, seasoned eggplant, layered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh leaves of basil, garden vine tomatoes, PESTO, and if that all wasn’t enough, baked chopped WALNUTS on top!  I know.  I know.  Dynamite, eh?  Come with me…

3 small plates
2 large plates
Sharp knife
Large frying pan
Large baking pan (or several small ones)
Paper towel (three sheets)

INGREDIENTS: (Makes 8 Napoleons – and check out everything I got at the Farmer’s Market – they’re all links!)
1 large eggplant (or 3 small eggplants)
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
Kosher salt, Pepper, Dried oregano, Garlic powder (all to season the breadcrumbs)
1 tub pesto
5-6 vine ripe tomatoes (3 orange, 2 red if you want to be fancy.  And I always want to be fancy.)
16 leaves fresh basil
2 giant fresh mozzarella balls (they come in tubs of water – don’t be scared, people.)
4 cloves garlic
Handful walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil

Okay, now I know I said cooking is much easier than you think and that you will love cooking.  BUT, this recipe is more labor-intensive than any yet on this blog.  HOWEVER, you will love EATING it so much, you will very likely look up from your plate for just a moment to say, “Thank you Punky Chef.  You have brought me joy.”  And I will say, “No problem, dude.”  And then all the labor will be forgotten in the instant of swallowing.

SO, with that in mind, here we go.  Now I made this twice, the first time with mini-eggplants from the Farmer’s Market, and then tonight with a regular-sized eggplant.   There are up-sides and down-sides to both.  The small eggplants, though so totally cute and space-saving, are hard to keep in line once you start layering.  They slip and slide and let’s say “challenge” your ability to make a pretty presentation.  HOWEVER, their petite size makes way for the pretty orange and red tomato slices, so you get the nice rainbow effect that gave me the Napoleon Dynamite title to begin with.  

Aaaaw, wook at de cute wittle eggpwants.  SO cuuute...

Aaaaw, wook at de cute wittle eggpwants. SO cuuute...

 So, this time I went with the full-size version, which did help in keeping my stacks together, but then the cutie pretty wittle tomatoes were totally obscured by the giant discs o’ eggplant and I lost the rainbow effect.

THE GOOD NEWS is that either way, it tastes amazing, so who really cares?

Now, the basic idea here is that we’re going to bread and fry the eggplant slices, then we’re going to layer them with all the other good stuff and bake this party at 350º for 15 minutes.  Pretty simple, but it still takes a long time – I’m not gonna lie.

See, at least I’m not like some chefs on TV who SAY “Oh it’s so easy” and “Oh it’s so quick” when really it takes three hours in a slow cooker.  (And what the hell is a slow cooker anyway?  And who the hell actually owns one?)  So instead, in the true punky way, I’m being upfront wit’ chew folks.  This is just gonna take a long-ass time.  But you can do it and you will be so glad that you did.

So, enough apologies!  Let’s get to the prepping.  I’m going to do this the big eggplant way, since that’s what I just did tonight and it works better as an entrée.  So take your big eggplant and cut it into 16 slices, laying a damp paper towel on top of the stack to keep the moisture in.

Now take your three small plates and put 1/2 cup flour in one, the 2 eggs in another (stir them up with your fork to get the yolks and whites blended), and in the final plate combine the 2/3 cup breadcrumbs, and about 1-2 teaspoons each of kosher salt, ground pepper, dried oregano, and garlic powder.  Mix it all with your fork.  (And please tell me you thought to rinse and dry your fork after the egg-stirring activity a moment ago.  Pay attention, people.)

Ready, set, GO...

Ready, set, GO...

And now for the tedious portion of our journey.  Throw on some good tunes (may I suggest the happy problem?) and start breading.  Take a slice of eggplant, flour it on both sides (2 plops), egg it on both sides (2 plops with a little swishing) and then breadcrumb it on both sides (2 plops, maybe a swish, and some sprinkling to make sure it’s covered.)  The trick with all this is to cover the surfaces evenly – you don’t want caked flour or globs of egg.  Just be mellow but persistent and try to get some good coverage.

Now do this fifteen more times.

I told you it was tedious.

(And I also mentioned at the top that this makes 8 Napoleons – which is good for four people really, so if it’s just you and the squeeze, cut everything in half and save yourself the trouble.)

OKAY!  You did it!  You survived the preppage.  NOW we do the fryage!

Cover the bottom of your frying pan with olive oil.  Slice your four cloves of garlic (see the TIPS page for some hints on garlic chopping), scatter them through the oil and turn the heat up to the lower side of medium.  Does that make sense?  Like not low, or even medium-low, but just shy of totally medium – that’s where I would put your flame.  If you’re dealing with electric, forget the nuance and just do medium.  (You can see I’m a gas girl.)  (Eew, gross.)

The garlic is mainly a thermometer of sorts: once the garlic starts to “speak” pretty loudly, (this is fancy cook talk for sizzle, crackle, hiss, make some damn noise), you know the oil is hot enough.  Remove the garlic slices and put aside.  Lay your first round of eggplant slices in the pan.  Wait a couple minutes and turn them over, then wait a couple more and turn them again.  Keep turning until you have a nice shade of brown and some good sizzle, then remove and place on a plate with a paper towel.  Add your next batch.

It took me three batches to get all my eggplant slices fried.  (This of course depends on the size of your frying pan and slices.)  I also added more oil as became necessary.  We are FRYING after all, people.  When I was done, I had three layers of fried eggplant slices on my plate, with a paper towel in between each, like this:

I mean, SO worth the effort, eh?

I mean, SO worth the effort, eh?

OKAY!  WOW YOU ARE DOING SO WELL!  That was all the hard stuff.  Now, we preheat the oven (350º) and assemble.

Take a large baking pan, (or in my case, three small round ones), and pour some olive oil in the bottom.  Nothing deep, just a thin coating.  Slice your tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick, and do the same with your mozzarella.

The giant ball (sliced) and the tub it rode in on...

The giant ball (sliced), and the tub it rode in in... (Oh, I slay myself.)

Lay eight slices of eggplant down in the baking dish, then smear them with some pesto.  (I used the back of a spoon – to each her own).  Lay down a slice of mozzarella, then a leaf of basil, then a slice of tomato.  Now repeat this, eggplant, pesto, mozz, basil, tomato, so you have a double-high stack for each one, and then put one more dab of pesto on top.  I alternated the red and yellow tomatoes so each Napoleon had both colors.

Okay, you are SO almost done!  Now take your garlic slices and sprinkle them throughout this whole production, and then chop up about a handful of walnuts and sprinkle them on the tops of each Napoleon, trying to get them to stay, but accepting the fact that they will tumble and roll all over the damn place.  Sometimes you just gotta let it go, folks.

Here are both versions, ready to hit the oven:





AND FINALLY, bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then SERVE and ENJOY!!

Now I know you are exhausted from the whole idea of this, and I don’t blame you.  It’s hardly the punky way to go, all this labor.  BUT LISTEN TO ME, one bite of these and you will understand why they are called Napoleon DYNAMITES.  The savory pesto, the soft flavorful eggplant, the fresh sweet tomatoes, and the smoky crunch of the walnuts – it’s – IT’S —


And also this whole egg/flour/breadcrumb sitch is not special to this recipe, that’s how you bread ANYTHING – chicken, zucchini – whatever.  So it’s a good thing to  know.

And now, I bid you a punky adieu and hope you enjoy all your new-found talents.


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