I found this simple yet ingenious recipe in an old Gourmet magazine (August 2005) and was drawn to the Leaning Tower of Pisa aspect of these stacks. I was also thrilled by the way they taste.
Tomato season is just beginning in earnest. We’ve harvested the first few loads of ripe cherries and the first red beauty from our little garden and also got a few sweet, flavorful ‘maters in our most recent CSA share. I heard a scary rumor that there may be a late blight headed our way but I see that as all the more reason to eat as many beautiful tomatoes as you can before it might hit!
It’s also time for eggplants – we got our first few in that same CSA pick up last week. They’re quite sweet with an appealingly meaty flavor that also has a hint of nuttiness to it.
It’s also been a good year so far for our two potted basil plants (despite the need for regular watering in the dry conditions of the last few weeks.) The leaves I’ve been picking are both tender and flavorful.
These grilled stacks are a wonderful marriage of flavors – the nutty richness of the eggplant, the juicy sweetness of the tomato, the light, fresh zing of the basil and the saltiness of the feta cheese. If you don’t have a grill, you could also make them by roasting in the oven. Try to find the sweetest tomatoes you can!
Grilled Eggplant Stacks With Tomato, Feta & Basil
Serves 4 as a light lunch or first course
* 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
* 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 medium eggplants (1 3/4 to 2 lb total)
* 1 large tomato (about 4 inches in diameter) and 2 medium tomatoes (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
* 3 oz feta, crumbled (about 3/4 cup) – you could also use goat cheese – equally tasty
* Finely shredded fresh basil leaves for garnish
* Freshly ground black pepper
* Sea salt
1. Blend basil with oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in blender until finely chopped. Pour into a paper-towel- or coffee-filter-lined sieve set over a bowl and let drain 20 minutes. Gather together sides of towel or filter and press gently on it to extract more oil. (You will have a generous 1/3 cup oil.) Reserve 1 tablespoon basil oil separately for serving. Scrape basil solids into a small bowl and reserve.
2. Prepare grill for cooking over medium-heat. While grill heats, cut off bottoms of eggplants, then cut 6 (1/2-inch-thick) crosswise rounds from each, starting from cut end. Reserve remaining eggplant for another use. Cut 4 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds from large tomato and 2 center slices (1/3 inch thick) from each medium tomato, reserving remaining tomato for another use.
3. Lightly brush eggplant rounds on both sides with basil oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill on a lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over occasionally, lightly brushing eggplant with more basil oil occasionally if it looks dry, until eggplant is very tender, 6 to 10 minutes. (Leave gas grill on.)
4. Make the stacks — on a baking pan, arrange the 4 largest eggplant rounds side by side and spread each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of reserved basil solids, then top each with 1 of the 4 largest tomato rounds. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and top each with about 1 tablespoon feta. Make another layer with medium-size eggplant rounds, basil solids, medium tomato rounds, salt, pepper, and feta, then top with remaining eggplant and feta.
5. Set baking pan on grill and cook stacks, with grill cover closed, until heated through and cheese on top is softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer stacks to 4 plates and drizzle plates with reserved basil oil.
A few more recipes you might like: