august 4, 2017
Remember the vertical food craze — towering foods precariously perched on plates and daring you to topple them with puny knives and forks? Pretty to behold, but not always practical to eat without messing up tablecloths and clothing. Intimidating and not always user friendly. These stacks are not like that.
These eggplant and heirloom tomato stacks, held together with a creamy goat cheese spread jazzed up with garden herbs, make four summer appetizers or two vegetarian entrees. A garlicky balsamic vinaigrette drizzled atop the stacks pulls together the earthiness of the vegetables and creaminess of the homemade cheese.These are pretty, and your fears of tackling them with ordinary utensils will be unfounded since they smash down nicely with that first cut. You can enjoy them any time of year, but in summer when local eggplant and tomatoes are at peak of flavor, and herbs grow with abandon in backyard plots and pots, these stacks and their minimal application of heat are a welcome addition to your repertoire of seasonal meals. Don’t want to crank up the oven? Grill the eggplant rounds instead.
If you’ve read this catalog of recipes, you know I am a big fan of making ahead.The herbed cheese and dressing can keep for a few days until you are ready to assemble the stacks. The eggplant should be made that same day to avoid an off texture; you want tender, pillowy rounds and refrigeration will make them a little soupy.
We all like easy, right? This recipe just looks complicated, but you will be pleased, like your guests, that the presentation is all about pretty (and practical in the vertical sense) and the taste is all about summer.
Tomato Eggplant Stacks
makes four appetizer or two entree servings
4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
8 ounces neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
one medium large garlic clove,zested or finely minced
1 tablespoons each finely minced parsley, basil and oregano
pinch fine sea salt
one large unpeeled eggplant, sliced horizontally into eight ½ inch slices*
extra virgin olive oil for brushing
3 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
one large garlic clove, zested or finely minced
pinch fine sea salt
pinch finely ground white pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
eight thin center slices heirloom tomato, from about three large*
fresh basil for garnish
*roast rest of eggplant alongside slices, cubed, and serve later as a salad, with the tomato ends
- To make cheese spread, use spatula or spoon to mix cheeses with garlic and herbs, add salt to taste, and chill ahead by several hours or up to a few days.
- For vinaigrette, in small bowl whisk together balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, large garlic and pinches of salt and pepper, then add 4 tablespoons of olive oil; if made ahead, allow to come to room temperature before drizzling.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Lightly oil heavy sheet pan, arrange eggplant slices and brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle well with kosher salt and roast until just tender, about 17 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Divide chilled cheese spread into eight patties.
- To assemble, place four eggplant slices on tray, top each with one cheese spread patty, then with slice of tomato.
- Repeat layers, drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with basil. Serve immediately.