Friday recipe: eggplant stackers

This summer, I’ve been waiting for a local crop almost as eagerly as I’ve anticipated fresh tomatoes, sweet corn and peppers: eggplants, the black gold of my spouse’s garden. I love them because I think eggplant has a unique, buttery taste, but it also can be seasoned to take on different flavors. Eggplant can be baked, grilled or steamed. It can be roasted with veggies, cubed and added to curry stir-fry, stuffed with peppers and cheese, or baked and pureed with garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to make babaganoush. And who doesn’t love to say, “babaganoush”?

Behold the black gold of the garden.

If you want to tenderize your eggplant and reduce some of the bitter taste prior to cooking it, “sweat” it: Cut the eggplant to the desired size and shape, sprinkle with salt and allow it to rest for about a half hour. Then rinse it in a strainer and prepare per your palate’s pleasure.

Because it’s still hot in Iowa and The Man has the grill going most evenings, my suggested recipe this week is for simple stacked eggplant on the grill. You can also enjoy it year-round by preparing it in the oven.

Eggplant stackers

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I consider this optional)
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced or diced (you can use a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes)
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

Wash and slice eggplant with skin on about a half-inch thick. “Sweat” the slices as described above if you want to reduce its potential bitter taste; rinse and drain.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, vinegar and spices. Brush mixture on both sides of each eggplant slice. Coat a skillet with cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil; place on medium heat. Place eggplant slices in skillet and cook each side about three minutes.

While eggplant is cooking, layer two sheets of foil together large enough to hold each pair of eggplant slices, stacked. Lightly coat the top foil layer with cooking spray. Place one eggplant slice on each foil square; top with one tomato slice or one tablespoon of diced tomatoes and one slice of cheese. Place a second eggplant slice on top of each stack. Gather foil around each, leaving a small opening at the top to allow steam to escape. Place on heated grill 10-20 minutes (you may have to adjust given the size and freshness of your eggplant).

As an alternative to using a grill, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the stacks as described above. Line a baking sheet with foil; lightly coat with spray. Place eggplant stacks on sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.

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