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Author Notes: 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
cup cheese blend (I use equal parts parmesan, fontina, and asiago)
tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
tablespoon unsalted butter
s&p for seasoning
- 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).