The people of Provence adore eggplants and goat cheese, two local products that can be combined with flavorful and pleasing results.
These pretty, easy-to-make snacks add ripe tomato and fresh basil to the eggplant and goat cheese to make a substantial no-bread sandwich that is as nourishing and tasty as it is attractive to the eye. Relax, pull up a chair on the terrace, pour a glass of chilled wine, and prepare to feast your senses on these simple French delights, real treats of the summer season. Low in carbs, but very high on the pleasure-scale.
3 globe eggplants, each one 2 or 3 inches in diameter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil as needed for frying and brushing eggplant
6 firm ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
20 fresh basil leaves, shredded, plus sprigs for garnish
10 ounces semi-mature goat cheese, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil for serving
1. Leave the eggplants unpeeled. Slice them long-ways into 1/3-inch-thick slices; you’ll need 18 slices all together. Put the slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and allow to stand for 30 minutes. (This will leach out any bitterness.) Pat the slices dry with paper towels, then coat eggplant with flour on both sides.
2. Pour about an inch of olive oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet and heat to 325F. Add 2 or 3 eggplant slices at a time and fry, turning once, about 4 minutes total until slices are golden. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining slices.
3. Preheat oven to 300F. Oil a large baking sheet.
4. Set aside 6 slices of eggplant that have the peel intact on one side. Arrange 6 of the remaining slices on the prepared baking sheet. Arrange 3 or 4 tomato slices on top of each eggplant slice, overlapping the tomato slices slightly. Scatter shredded basil on top, then place slices of goat cheese on top to that. Top with a second layer of eggplant slices, more tomato slices, basil, and cheese. Finish with the reserved skin-on eggplant slices, skin-side up (the finished product should look like a reconstituted whole eggplant). Brush tops with olive oil.
5. Bake sandwich stacks 5 to 8 minutes until warmed and softened. Transfer to individual plates, garnish with fresh basil sprigs, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.