California Central Coast Recipes
Stacked Eggplant with Basil Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella
Late summer we're usually fortunate to still have good eggplant and fresh basil available. Fantasizing how we could use these ingredients in a healthy easy-to-make recipe, we conjured up a recipe we call Stacked Eggplant with Basil Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella. Other than the tomato sauce, which you might already have on hand or prepared ahead of time, the only other time-consuming preparation part of this recipe is the time it takes to quickly salt and pepper, coat and saute the half-inch eggplant rounds and make a simple Basil Pesto in your food processor while your tomato sauce simmers. Then it is mere stacking the different pieces of the "eggplant puzzle" and baking for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Trust me, it's Mediterranean-styled comfort food at it's best --and healthy too!
This is the kind of recipe that is not "set in stone." Try you own variations, for example lightly grill the eggplant instead of frying it. It is an equally good way to prepare the eggplant and gives a totally different texture to the final dish. This recipe also reheats and freezes very well, so if you make enough, you're able to have another delicious meal later.
Preparation time: 1 hour Cooking time: 30 minutes
1/2 Large White onion peeled and chopped
4 Tablespoons Extra virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoons Garlic chopped
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes drained and chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
2 to 3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 cup water.
1/2 cup Italian Parsley washed, dried and chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup packed Fresh Basil
1/2 cup Italian Parsley
1 Large Clove Garlic
3 to 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoons Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
2 medium Eggplant sliced into 1/2 inch thick circles, 12 pieces in all, optionally peeled
1 Egg lightly beaten
1 cup Milk to thin eggs
1 cup flour
and Pepper to taste
1 cup Olive oil or Canola Oil
1 cup Ricotta
6 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese sliced or shredded
8 inch baking pan
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 Start by making the sauce. In a heavy sauce pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Saute the onion until translucent, soft and sweet. Add the garlic and saute just long enough until fragrant. Add the wine and deglaze the pan.
3 Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano, water and sugar (if the tomatoes are really good, the sugar may be omitted). Bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer partially covered.
4 While the sauce is simmering, Arrange two separate bowls. Use one for the eggs with milk, and the other for the flour that's been mixed with some salt and pepper.
5 Begin by dipping each eggplant slice first into the egg bowl, coating each side, then shaking the excess off and then dipping each slice into the flour bowl. Shake off the excess and set aside on a plate. Continue to dip and coat each eggplant slice until done.
6 Now to cook the eggplant. Pour 3-4 tablespoons oil into heated large non-stick skillet or dutch-oven on medium high heat. When the oil is hot (375F), start adding the floured slices and brown each side until lightly golden, about 3 minutes each side. Add a little shaken salt and pepper to lightly season while the eggplant slices cook. If you need more oil, add as needed. When golden, shake off excess oil and drain on paper-toweled platter. Set aside.
7 For the pesto, place the olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic and salt into a food processor and pulse to paste. Add 1 tablespoon of the pesto to the ricotta cheese and reserve the rest for later.
8 To assemble the dish, start the first layer by spreading about a cup of sauce over the base of the baking pan.
9 On top of the sauce, arrange 4 pieces of cooked eggplant, side by side. Next, spread even amount of the ricotta-pesto mixture on top of each eggplant piece.
10 Next place a piece of cooked eggplant on top of the ricotta-pesto stack. Next spread equal amounts of the pesto on top of each of the 4 stacked pieces of eggplant.
11 Next stack the final eggplant layer on top of the pesto. Spoon a layer of tomato sauce over the stacks, and finish with a layer of fresh mozzarella.
12 Bake at 350 degrees uncovered without foil or lid for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.
13 Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
This is a very rustic dish, and pairs very well with a young unfussy country style California Zinfandel.