For this meal I once again had some guest cooks. My high school friends Brendan and Emma graced me with a visit last weekend, and since Brendan previously requested to be on the blog, I thought I would indulge him!
Since Brendan has been a vegetarian forever, and Emma has since started to embrace the lifestyle too, we decided on making eggplant, tomato and mozzarella stacks on a bed of basil polenta. If you follow the link to the recipe below, you will see we changed it up a bit to make a quicker, easier version, since all three of us were starving!
This was a great meal for a dinner party or small group dinner, I am not sure how it would re-heat if you had leftover, so something to keep in mind if you decide to give it a try.
You start by slicing up the eggplant and tomatoes, grating the Parmesan and slicing the mozzarella.
Take the eggplant slices and place on a pan, brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkling with salt.
Let those broil for about 4 minutes on each side until brown.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the tomato slices with balsamic vinegar.
One the eggplant is done, adjust the temp of the oven to 375° and assemble the stacks in the order of eggplant, mozza, tomato, mozza, and then one last tomato.
Let the cheese melt for about 15 minutes.
While the cheese is melting, make the polenta. Bring 2 cups water to boil. Whisk in the polenta gradually and continue whisking for about 6 minutes. I was lucky enough to have a helper, who didn’t complain at all about the job he was given…
Once the polenta has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and margarine/butter, then stir in the basil and set aside.
When the cheese has melted between the layers of the stacks, remove from them from the oven.
To finish up, divide the polenta (about 1/4 cup) and stacks (about 2) among 4 plates.
Sprinkle with oregano or top with a basil leaf to finish everything off!
Emma loved this dish as did I, but Brendan didn’t chime in with warm praise, so I am a little skeptical of his feelings. But still, I would definitely make this again if I was feeding a bunch of people. I also think the stacks would be great as an appetizer sans polenta, as the flavors are a proven great combination!
Eggplant, Tomato and Mozza Stacks with Basil Polenta (adapted from Bon Appétit)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup polenta (yellow cornmeal)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup basil, fresh and chopped
2 large Chinese eggplants, each cut into 1/2 inch strips
Olive oil for brushing eggplant
4 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling on tomatoes
1 7 3/4-ounce package small fresh mozzarella balls in water, drained
Pre-heat your broiler
Place sliced eggplant on baking sheet, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
Broil until brown, about 4 minutes per side
While the eggplant are broiling, sprinkle tomato slices with balsamic vinegar
When eggplant are done broiling, remove from oven and adjust temperature to 375°
Top each eggplant with 1/3-inch think slice of mozzarella, then 1 tomato slice, then 1 more slice of mozzarella, and then another tomato slice
Place back in oven until cheese melts, about 15 minutes
While the cheese is melting, bring 2 cups of water with some salt to a boil and gradually whisk cornmeal into boiling water and reduce heat to medium-low
Keep whisking polenta constantly for about 6 minutes or until it is nice and thick then remove from the heat
Stir in cheese and butter, then stir in basil
Remove eggplant and tomato stacks from the oven
Plate dish with about 1/4 cup polenta and 2 stacks per serving, sprinkle with oregano if desired
Yields 4 servings