This Sunday was, among other things, Cooks' Guild. It was a great meeting -- almost all of the regulars showed up, and we collectively wound up cooking six different dishes. I brought along Rebecca, who is a friend of Anne and Darker's who has expressed some interest in SCA crafts. I forgot to look at cookbooks on Saturday, so Sunday morning I decided to go for my traditional safe route, pull up the online copy of the Manuscrito Anonimo (my pick for the best cookbook of the middle ages), and see what appealed. The answer was, "eggplant", so I bought some fixings on the way, and Rebecca and I did a couple of recipes from them.
Specifically, we did the Mahshi with Eggplants and Cheese, a sort of eggplant souffle, which I would judge as a noble failure: not bad, and could be improved, but didn't inspire folks. OTOH, the Eggplant Isfîriyâ, which are mostly the same recipe done as fritters, worked well -- even the folks who don't like eggplant thought they were pretty good.
Anyway, we only got through two of the three recipes I was thinking about -- we didn't have time to try the Dusted Eggplants (essentially triple-fried eggplant slices) -- so I was left with a spare eggplant. It's not Kate's favorite food, so she charged me to use it for lunch.
So today's project (actually, yesterday and today) has been to reverse-engineer the concept of the Eggplant Stack, a dish that I've gotten from Whole Foods a couple of times, which was solidly Okay But Not Great. It was a total win, so here it is for the record (and to remind me to write it up for the Cookbook eventually):
1 fat eggplant
Two eggs, beaten (or substitute -- I used Egg Beaters, which were convenient)
A bit of kosher salt
Sundried Tomato Pesto
A few ounces of shredded cheese
Dry the Eggplant: Slice the eggplant into medium-thickness disks, maybe 1/2" thick: try to wind up with 8 slices. Peel either before this or after. (I found it easier after.) Put in a colander; salt on both sides. Leave for an hour, flipping in the middle. The eggplant should express some water. Rinse it off, then bake on a cookie sheet in a single layer in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping once. (The eggplant can be set aside overnight at this point -- this is just about getting the excess liquid out.)
Bread the Eggplant: Mix equal parts bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a wide bowl. Coat the slices in the beaten egg, then thoroughly dredge in the crumb/cheese mixture. Lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until it begins to brown and crisp a little. (Note that it will brown faster on the bottom!)
Make the Stack: Put a small amount (~1 tsp) of pesto in a baking pan, then a slice of breaded eggplant on top. Add another small spoonful of pesto on that, and some shredded cheese. Don't go too heavy on the pesto, or it'll be oily. Repeat twice more, then put the fourth slice on top with just cheese over that, so you have a four-slice stack. Do the same with the other four slices.
Bake about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and enjoy.
In my first try, I cut the eggplant lengthwise. This works, but was wasteful and produced erratically-shaped slices. I suspect it would work better cutting crosswise circular slices instead.
One of the goals here was to *not* use tomato sauce, which tends to result in wetter eggplant than I like. This came out excellent, but illustrates that you need to be very gentle with the pesto -- I wasn't careful with it, and wound up with a small pool of oil in the pan.
I would bet that this would work just as well, and have a very different flavor profile, with other pestos. I suspect it would be great with basil pesto.