Baked Eggplant Sliders with Smoked Ricotta and Honey

I've started eating burgers again.

In the past few years, I enjoyed a delightful hamburger maybe once a month, now I'm up to twice a month.  Who can resist a juicy, medium-cooked burger with aged cheddar cheese, smoky bacon and tangy BBQ sauce? Not this girl. And, we recently found a terrific restaurant near our new apartment that has a special burger menu  -- so of course we have to try them all! So far, I've had four of the twelve options. Yum!

But, to keep my new burger obsession from spiraling out of control, I've also been making meat-free versions at home in the form of crispy tofu burgers with sriracha mayo and eggplant sliders with smoky ricotta and either a drizzle of honey or a bit of tangy tomato sauce.

The eggplant sliders are especially tasty now that eggplants are in season. Here's a quick recipe for the sliders, but you could make regular-sized eggplant burgers, too -- just use larger eggplants or pile the slices on to fit a burger bun. Enjoy!

Smoky Baked Eggplant Sliders
4 small eggplants
Kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup white flour
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS Italian herb mix
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch or three of red chili flakes
Olive oil
Smoked sea salt, or plain Kosher salt
1 12-pack Kings Hawaiian dinner rolls
8 oz smoked or plain, full-fat ricotta 
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup tomato sauce

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 1

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • Remove stem and bottom end from eggplants, then slice into somewhere between 1/4 - 1/2 inch rounds, depending on whether you want one or two per slider. Place the slices in a colander, then sprinkle generously with salt, and cover with a pot lid or plate. Let the excess liquid drain from the eggplant for about 15-20 minutes, then wipe off excess salt, pat dry and set aside.
  • Add the cream or half and half to a shallow dish/pie pan.
  • In another shallow dish/pie-pan, mix together the flour, cornmeal, a few grinds of pepper, the dried herbs, garlic powder and chili flakes with a fork.
  • Dip each eggplant slice in the cream until coated, then place in the pan with the flour mixture and cover all sides, then place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Continue until all of your slices are coated. Discard any extra cream/flour mixture unless you have more vegetables you can coat and bake.
  • Drizzle the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with the smoked sea salt. (Kosher salt is fine, too.)
  • Bake in the oven about 10-15 minutes until browned, then flip once and bake until that side is browned, too.
  • Remove browned slices from the oven and let cool.
  • While they are cooling, assemble your sliders: Slice your rolls in half, then coat one side with the ricotta and the other with either a drizzle of honey or a dollop of your favorite tomato sauce. I like to do a mix of six sliders with ricotta and honey, and six with ricotta and tomato sauce. 
  • Place an eggplant round (or two if you sliced them thin) on the bottom half of the roll then top with the ricotta lid.
  • Serve with a green salad, grilled veggies, chips and hummus, or fries.