This is just too fun to pass up. A friend from work brought in some beautiful garden tomatoes, and combined with our abundance of eggplant, and a whole lot of cast-iron heat, a flavor-filled spesh was born. I made my Broccoli Pesto to go with this dish, but use your favorite pesto to make your own taste buds sing. Or maybe a simple balsamic reduction, or even a late-season blackberry and port vinaigrette. So many options!
Despite the tomatoes getting some cheese-love in this dish, the eggplant are really what shine. They are soft on the inside (but not mushy), and the cast iron sear gives them that great seasoned heat flavor.
I do have a story to share about this dish, but it’s going to have to wait… a little more needs to transpire before giving away the farm. Keep reading and I’ll clue you in, soon!
- 1 med eggplant, sliced into 3/4 – 1 in. medallions
- 2-3 similar sized tomatoes, sliced into 3/4 – 1 in. medallions
- 1 c cheese blend (I used equal parts parmesan, fontina, and asiago)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
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. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to high broil, and heat a cast-iron skillet on the stove over high. While the pan is 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.
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.
Remove eggplant from pan and set aside, and remove tomatoes from oven. It helps to assemble the veg if they have cooled just a bit, rather than still being still scorching. 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.