Vegetables Napoleon

It’s here once again, the time of year when everyone is reminded to call their mother and let her know how much they care. The week leading up to Mother’s Day has always been a bitter sweet time for me, because just as I became a new mother myself, I lost my own mom to a battle that is all too familiar for so many families. She was beautiful in so many ways, and now, 7 years later, I find myself continuing to keep her legacy within the reach of my children through the food we eat and the table we sit at together. Like many of you who read this recipe column regularly, I feel like I gained much of my culinary expertise and guidance on food preparation from my mother. As I reflect on growing up in her kitchen, one of the things I can recall that made her style of cooking unique is that instead of showing up at the grocery store with a recipe list, she would shop at the local market on a daily basis and develop her plan for dinner based on whatever was fresh that day. I think it’s a great practice to follow, especially now that I try to teach my own children to focus on food that is fresh and local.

This is an elegant vegetarian dish you can put together in about 20 minutes. It works well for brunch or dinner. The word “Napolean” means layered, so this dish is simply layered vegetables. Asparagus is in season and layers perfectly with eggplant, or whatever squash you have readily available. The beauty of grilling vegetables is that no matter what you have on hand, in your garden, or find fresh at the market on any given day, a simple recipe like this will enable you to put a delicious meal on the table in a matter of minutes. Then you can spend more time focusing on what is most important…spending time with your family. Try this recipe for Mother’s Day brunch.

2 eggplants, skin on, sliced into rounds
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced into bite size pieces
1 small vidalia onion, chopped
4 cups of spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (if using, for vegan option, use crumbled tofu)
1/4 cup grated reggiano parmesan
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
splash of white wine for sautéing

Saute the onion in a small amount of white wine over medium heat until translucent. Turn off the heat and add the chopped spinach. Spritz a small amount of extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables, and grill them for about 4 minutes per side. Fold the spinach/onion mixture into the ricotta, adding reggiano and lemon zest together in a bowl. Layer, then bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. When they come out the oven, sprinkle balsamic vinegar over the top and serve.

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