This is my version of a dish from my friends' Italian restaurant up the road. The recipe includes fried eggplant slices, a built in caprese salad, and homemade pesto. Served on a few tablespoons of chunky tomato sauce with a final drizzle of balsamic glaze atop the stack, one stack can make a great appetizer, or two or more stacks a nice vegetarian entree with a side salad. This dish is best served when fresh, juicy tomatoes are in season. NB: Using a Dutch oven to fry the eggplant slices will prevent oil splatter all over your stove top. —Bevi
12 stacks of varying sizes
medium eggplants, peeled and sliced crosswise into 3/4" thick rounds
salt for seasoning the dredging flour
ground pepper for seasoning the dredging flour
large clove garlic, minced
Panko bread crumbs
enough vegetable oil to fill up to 1 inch in a large sauté pan for frying
salt for lightly sprinkling fried eggplant slices
thin slices of buffalo mozarella
ripe tomatoes, each sliced crosswise into 6 pieces
Use 3 separate pie plates for: 1) a seasoned flour dredge, 2) beaten eggs with minced garlic added, and 3) Panko crumbs. Lightly dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then the beaten egg, and finally in the panko crumbs. Set prepared eggplant slices on a large platter. I recommend using metal tongs to handle the eggplant.
Pour vegetable oil in a large saute pan that will fit 5 to 7 eggplant slices for frying. Make sure you use enough oil to reach at least halfway up the eggplant slices. Heat oil over a medium flame. Test with a prepared end slice of eggplant to make sure the oil is sizzling and ready.
Carefully set the eggplant slices into the hot oil, using tongs so you do not burn yourself. Fry quickly until golden brown on each side. Remove slices and set on a metal rack over a half sheet pan. Lightly sprinkle each slice with kosher or sea salt, on one side only. Continue to fry all slices, salting lightly. Set aside and allow to cool slightly. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Assemble mozzarelle slices, tomato slices, basil leaves, and pesto. Match the eggplant slices by size, so you have evenly paired stacks. Place a slice of mozzarella on an eggplant slice, and then spread a small dollop of pesto on the mozzarella. Place a tomato slice on the pesto, followed by a basil leaf. Place the second matched eggplant slice on top of the basil leaf, and this completes a finished stack. Repeat until all stacks are assembled. Place the finished stacks back onto the metal rack over a half sheet pan.
Slowly heat your tomato sauce, and consider adding some crushed red pepper.
Place the stacks in the oven, and warm until the mozzarella is melted - about 10 to 15 minutes.
To serve, spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on a dinner plate, place one or two stacks on the sauce, and then drizzle a little balsamic glaze atop each stack. Serve as an app, or an entree with a simple salad.