With dishes like this one, I am able to convince my meat-eating husband that you can still use a steak knife on veg! Our CSA basket has provided a generous amount of eggplant and warm Oregon tomatoes that I am finding this fancy-like dish to be quite a staple at the end of the season. Even though the tomatoes get the cheese-love in this dish, the eggplant are the real star with their seasoned heat flavor. So crank up that cast iron, and enjoy! —42potatoes
medium eggplant, sliced into 3/4-1 in. medallions
similar-sized tomatoes, sliced into 3/4-1 in. medallions
cheese blend (I use equal parts parmesan, fontina, and asiago)
Prior to cooking, place the slices of eggplant in a large colander, and place the colander over a large bowl.
Liberally sprinkle the eggplant with the 2 tsp salt, and let the eggplant sit for about 20 minutes (I like to call this a “de-brine” as the salt extracts the bitter juices out of the eggplant, as well as softens the flesh).
After the 20 minutes, with paper towels, wipe the excess salt, and pat the eggplant dry.
Prepare the tomatoes by greasing a baking dish with butter, and placing the tomatoes up in the dish, not overlapping.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with s&p and top each one with a couple finger-pinches of cheese, and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top (this will help give you the gooey-browned cheese effect that temps you to eat-when-its-way-too-hot-and-burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth good).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to high broil, and heat a cast-iron skillet on the stove on high.
While the pan is still cool, but heating up, pour in 3 tbsp of olive oil and throw in the rosemary sprig.
Remove the rosemary after the pan has become hot – the oil should be glistening and shimmery, and the rosemary should be fragrant (like a pine tree on a really hot day).
Put the tomatoes in the oven, and watch them – broilers can be finicky. Mine took about 10 minutes to become golden and bubbly.
Sprinkle the eggplant with a bit of pepper, and then standing back, place each eggplant in the pan. Each side should get a golden sear, about 4-6 minutes.
Assemble, alternating tomato and eggplant, as high as you would like, starting and ending with a tomato.
Drizzle with a bit of good quality olive oil (optional), and let a big crack of pepper fall over the tower and onto the plate. Serve with a pesto, or your favorite dressing (I used a homemade broccoli pesto, but a thick merlot balsamic reduction, or even a late-season blackberry and port vinaigrette would be fantastic).