An opulent summer dinner
“The cattle lay drowsing all day long under the willows and only moved out at night to feed. An umber tone came to the grass. And the afternoon winds blowing inevitably down the valley started a dust that was like fog and raised it into the sky almost as high as the mountaintops.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Its still summer. If only it would last forever. But then juicy peaches and sweet corn would become mundane. Voluptuous tomatoes would be boring and perfectly regal eggplant might be ignored for the avalanche of winter squash and pumpkin that nudge us to the next season. Grab the last of summer’s finest and then welcome autumn.
In an effort to use up the end-of-summer, I have too many cherry tomatoes, I added some to the baking dish and found that they were very happy to burst open and make a chunky sauce for the Eggplant Stacks. The ripe tomatoes mingle nicely with any garlic crumbs that fall in their direction. Sprinkle with abandon. Also recommended is scooping the sweet tomato goodness with crusty bread. Soon all our plans for tomatoes will be tucked away in jars and cans.
This recipe serves two and can be easily doubled to serve four. Planning for leftovers is something I often do. A light brush with oil and roasting at high heat insures that the eggplant doesn’t become a sponge for too much oil. I am also a fan of salting the eggplant to remove excess moisture and bitterness before making the stacks. Take care not to add too much cheese or tomato sauce between the layers of eggplant, the stacks might slide apart when baking. To capture the subtle and fresh flavors of the eggplant and buffalo mozzarella mellow parsley is the only herb in the recipe.
|1||large clove of garlic|
|1T||fresh parsley, chopped|
|1/4t||fine grain sea salt|
|Eggplant Stacks with Buffalo Mozzarella|
|1T||fine grain sea salt|
|1||ball buffalo mozzarella, 4.4oz, drained|
- To make the garlic crumbs warm the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs and parsley.
- Heat the oven to 425°. Cut the eggplant vertically in half inch slices, ideally there will be eight slices to make two stacks. Generously salt both sides of each piece of eggplant. Set in a colander to drain for fifteen minutes to remove excess moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of a large sheet pan. Rinse all the salt from the eggplant slices and throughly pat each slice dry. Spread the eggplant slices across the surface of the sheet pan and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Roast the eggplant slices for 15 minutes. Take care not to overcook, the eggplant will become too soft to stack.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Cut the buffalo mozzarella in very thin slices. (I use an egg slicer.) Lightly oil individual baking dishes or a casserole pan. Pick the two largest slices of eggplant for the bottom of the stacks. Place them in the prepared pan(s). Scoop just enough tomato sauce to cover the top of the slices and add a thin layer of mozzarella. Don’t be tempted to add lots of tomato sauce or cheese, as the stacks will slide apart and the eggplant will become an afterthought. Thin layers will be just right! Continue building the stacks, ending with the smallest slices of eggplant on top. Finish the top slice with tomato sauce and cheese too. Leave some of the cherry tomatoes whole and cut the others in half. Scatter them around the base of the stacks. Top each stack generously and firmly with garlic crumbs and sprinkle some of the crumbs on the cherry tomatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, the cherry tomatoes will be bubbling and the cheese will be melted. Serve with crusty bread for scooping up the best and ripest of summer’s offerings.
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