Make it light: for the custard, omit the egg, crème fraîche, and Parmigiano Reggiano and use 1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta and 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt cheese. Reduce the basil olive oil to 4 tablespoons.
Make it ahead: you can complete the eggplant through Step 3 up to 6 hours in advance and refrigerate. When you are ready, proceed with Step 4.
|2 medium ||eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices|
| ||coarse sea salt|
|1/2 cups ||basil olive oil (approximate)|
|1 medium ||onion, peeled and coarsely chopped|
|1 cloves ||garlic|
|16 leave(s) ||fresh basil, coarsely chopped|
|1 tsp. ||white peppercorns, ground coarsely|
|1 tsp. ||black peppercorns, ground coarsely|
|1 tsp. ||fine sea salt|
|1 tsp. ||sugar|
|1/2 cups ||ricotta|
|1 medium ||egg|
|1 1/2 cups ||crème fraîche|
|2 oz. ||Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (about 1/2 cup)|
- Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow the eggplant to stand 30 minutes. Wipe the slices with paper towels. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil, place the eggplant slices on it and brush the eggplant with oil. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until soft, about 30 minutes.
- In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and tomato until most of the tomato liquid disappears. Season with some of the freshly ground peppercorns, salt, and sugar. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, crème fraîche, and half the Parmigiano Reggiano to create a thick custard.
- Arrange half the eggplant slices in the bottom of a large gratin dish. Sprinkle with some of the peppercorns, salt, and sugar, and half the chopped basil. Spread the tomato mixture over the eggplant and sprinkle with ground ppercorns, salt, and sugar and the remainder of the basil. Cover with the rest of the eggplant and pour on the cheese and cream mixture. Sprinkle the remainder of Parmigiano Reggiano over the top.
- Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 450°F oven, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake approximately 20 minutes more, until the surface is golden brown and puffed.