Eggplants love the grill, and I love to grill eggplants – or aubergines as they are so elegantly referred to in other countries. Eggplants comes in many sizes and shapes, while the most common variety is the plump, pear-shaped and, well, aubergine colored vegetable found year round in our markets.
When it comes to the barbecue the versatile, yet subtle, eggplant is the workhorse of grilled vegetables. Its mellow, buttery flavor and firm texture lends well to the barbecue, as it hold its shape during grilling and serves as a perfect vehicle for spicy, smoky, flamboyant flavors. Eggplants may be simply prepared with olive oil, salt and pepper and served in stand-alone fashion – or tossed with a medley of Provençal-style vegetables as a grilled accompaniment to meat and fish. Cut in planks, and use as a vessel for a dollop of creamy tsatsiki for an easy crowd-friendly appetizer – or stack grilled slices with tomato, basil and goat cheese for an impressive beginning to a dinner.
This recipe is easy to prepare, delicious and fresh to eat. The smoky eggplant combines beautifully with cool garlicky goat cheese, juicy sweet tomatoes and crisp fresh basil leaves. Serve as an elegant appetizer or on a bed of arugula for a dramatic salad.
Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stacks with Basil and Tomato Coulis
Makes 8 stacks
1 to 2 narrow, firm eggplants, sliced horizontally 1/4-inch thick to yield 16 slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups soft goat cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced horizontally 1/4-inch thick to yield 8 slices
16 large basil leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup tomato coulis (see below)
Preheat oven broiler or prepare grill. Lightly brush eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrrange on baking tray and broil in oven, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. (Or grill over direct medium heat until charred and tender, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes). Transfer to plate to cool.
Whisk goat cheese, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl.
Arrange 1/2 of the eggplant slices on a platter. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons goat cheese over the eggplant, then top with 1 basil leaf. Place a tomato slice over the basil and spread 1 to 2 teaspoons goat cheese over the tomato. Place a second eggplant slice over the goat cheese. Top with one teaspoon goat cheese and basil leaf. Lightly drizzle 2 to 3 teaspoons Tomato Coulis over and around the eggplant stack. Garnish with one teaspoon grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes about 1 cup
1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (see below), coarsely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine tomatoes, garlic and olive oil in bowl of food processor. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for one hour before serving. (Coulis may be made one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate). Serve at room temperature.
Cooking Class – How to Peel and Seed a Tomato:
1. Take a paring knife and cut out the stem: Make shallow incisions around the stem and scoop out the stem.
2. With same knife, make a shallow X-incision in bottom of tomato.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Plunge tomato into water for 10 seconds. Remove and submerge in a bowl of ice water.
4. Remove the cooled tomato from the water. Peel away skin.
5. To seed the tomato, cut the tomato in half. Use your fingers to scoop out seeds.