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Chocolate Eggplant - Melanzane al Cioccolato

(Serves 6 to 8)
Chocolate Eggplant
Chocolate Eggplant
In this dessert, layers of fried eggplant are spread with sweetened ricotta and chocolate, which are then refrigerated and served cold.  Chocolate Eggplant is a Neapolitan dessert that is also popular throughout the Amalfi coast.  It is usually served on August 15 to celebrate Italy's national summer holiday, Ferragosto.  Going back centuries, Ferragosto celebrates the end of the harvest season and provides a period of rest.  Nowadays, it is a time when families take a short holiday by heading back to a family home or a beach resort. The date also coincides with the religious feast of the Assumption.  There are many variations of Chocolate Eggplant; many do not include a ricotta filling.  This recipe is very rich and creamy, and certainly unique.

1 large eggplant
Flour, for dredging
Olive oil, for frying
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
8 amaretti cookies, crushed
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons minced candied orange peel

Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Sweet liqueur, such as Amaretto

Sliced almonds and candied orange peel


Peel and slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. 

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest.
Spread the sugar mixture on a baking sheet and set aside.
Line another baking sheet with paper towels and place near the stove.

Heat 1/4-inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Lightly dredge the eggplant slices in flour.  Fry the eggplant in batches until they are lightly golden on both sides.  Transfer the cooked eggplant to the paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain.  While the slices are still warm, transfer them to the baking sheet with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Press each slice into the sugar mixture to coat both sides. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the dessert.

To make the filling:
Stir all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl; set aside.

To make the chocolate sauce:
Heat the cream in a saucepan until it just begins to come to a simmer.
Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.  Let the mixture sit for 1 minute and then stir it until smooth. Add a splash of liqueur and stir to combine; set aside.

To assemble the dessert:
Arrange 1 layer of the fried eggplant slices in the bottom of a (6 x 10-inch or 8 x 8-inch) baking dish.  Spread half of the ricotta filling evenly over the eggplant. Spread a thin layer of the chocolate sauce on top.  Repeat the layers one more time and finish with a final layer of eggplant.  Pour chocolate sauce over to cover the top.  Sprinkle some sliced almonds and candied orange peel on top as a garnish.  Refrigerate until the ricotta sets and the dessert is cold, about 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve cold.
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