Susan’s Eggplant Stack
- Yield: 4 servings
- Cooking spray, for greasing the baking pan
- 2 medium-size globe eggplants (about 1 pound each)
- Salt, for leaching
- 1/2 medium-size red or Vidalia onion, sliced through the root
- 8 slices smoked mozzarella, Gouda, provolone, or cheddar cheese
- 1/4 to 1/2cup basil pesto (recipe follows)
- 2 to 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, at least 3 inches wide
- For the basil pesto:
- 2 heaping cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4cup pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds
- 1 to 2clove garlic
- 1/2cup olive oil
- 1/4 to 1/2teaspoon salt
- 3/4cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Note: The eggplant and onion may be grilled or roasted.
- Preheat the oven to 400F or prepare your grill. Thoroughly grease two baking trays with cooking spray.
- Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. Place the eggplant on a rack in a single layer and sprinkle salt on top to help release the water content. Allow to leach for about 15 minutes.
- With a towel, pat the eggplant dry.
- Place the eggplant rounds on in a single layer on both trays. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn, and roast the second side for an additional 10 minutes, for a total of 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and place the onion half on it, cut side down. Allow to char for 5 minutes, then transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 12 to 15 minutes. The onion will be somewhat charred and softened. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- (On the grill: Using a brush, grease the grate. Grill using the direct method, making sure the eggplant does not burn. After 7 to 10 minutes, turn and grill on the second side. Grease the onion and cook on the grill for 3 minutes on each side.)
- Transfer all but eight eggplant rounds to a plate. Place a slice of cheese on each remaining eggplant round and heat on your heat source of choice for 2 minutes, allowing the cheese to melt. Remove from the heat.
You can build your stack any way you see fit; my recommendations are: Each serving gets two stacks. Each stack contains three eggplant rounds (one with cheese), three applications of pesto (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each, to taste), two slices of tomato, and one onion.
The order that has proven reliable:
Eggplant, pesto, tomato, pesto, eggplant, onion, tomato, pesto, eggplant/cheese
Build stacks on a platter or on individual dinner plates. Serve with a steak knife.
To make the basil pesto:
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the basil leaves. Blanch for 15 seconds, then remove from the pot with a skimmer or a pair of tongs. Transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. This will shock the basil and intensify its brilliant shade of green.
- Extract the basil from the water and squeeze it dry as much as possible with your hands.
- Place the nuts and the garlic in the bowl of a food processor or heavy-duty blender and whiz until pulverized. Add the basil and process until mixture is well combined. While the machine is running, gradually add the oil, until well blended. You may need to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl a few times for thorough blending.
- Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and stir in the cheese. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and taste, adding more as you see fit.
Makes 1 cup. You will have about half for leftovers that can go to good use in a bowl of pasta.
–From the book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, by Kim O’Donnel. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2010.