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As a teenager, one of my very favorite lunches at home consisted of grilled Japanese eggplant, radicchio, and gruyere cheese melted over a toasted baguette.  Yes, this is a bit unusual for a teenager to prepare at home, I am aware, but out of the ordinary and unusual are descriptions that I most certainly do feel have applied to me in the past and will, most likely, always be applicable.

These days the baguette is out of the picture for me, but I still very much enjoy eggplant.  The meaty, purple, prized nightshade is highly enticing in all sorts of regional, cultural cuisine.  Not only is the flavor attractive, when prepared just so, the color can be magnificent.

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A deep, rich and royal hue, accompanied by a vibrant red and a healthy green create inspiration and elegance in a dish.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, taste and flavor are highly important – yet nourishment and enjoyment are also comprised of presentation ~ beautiful presentation.

Eggplant Elegance with Mediterranean Meatballs

1 large eggplant, very thinly sliced into discs
sea salt and pepper
1-2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. basic marinara sauce (Rising Moon Organics is my favorite.  This time I used Victoria White Linen)
1/4 c. Mediterranean olives, pitted and diced (Kalamata or Castelvetrano)

Mediterranean Meatballs:
1 lb. grass fed beef
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
1 Tbs. fresh oregano, minced
1 Tbs. fresh basil, minced
sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  After slicing the eggplant into discs, lay out the discs onto a paper towel, sprinkling with salt, and allow to “sweat” about 10 minutes.  Flip and “sweat” out the moisture again for an additional 10 minutes.  
Transfer to a parchment lined baking dish, and add freshly ground pepper.  Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the discs around 10 minutes to ensure they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

In the meantime, combine marinara, olives, herbs in a small pot over low heat to completely heat through.  Feel free to substitute your own, homemade marinara for the store bought version.

The timing of the meatballs, eggplant, and sauce is important, to ensure everything stays nice and hot!
Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl and form into golfball size portions.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, fry the meatballs, turning once, until perfectly browned.

To assemble, loosely stack the eggplant discs, spooning the marinara between each layer.  Top with several meatballs and then finish off with extra sauce!

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