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Eggplant Stacks with Tomatoes & Parmesan

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Eggplant Parmesan

I have this friend and she’s a super adventurous cook.  She uses recipes as jumping off points – sometimes she doesn’t even use a recipe – and everything she makes is fabulous.  Her signature-no-recipe-salad-dressing, for example,  is TO DIE FOR.  Every time I try to nail her down on the ingredients she’s like, “oh, I don’t know, I never do the same thing twice, it’s a little of this, a little of that” real casual-like and la-di-da and it drives me CRAZY because I am sooooo not that kind of cook.

Today I’m channeling Lori (her real name).  When I had a look at the new sale ad gave me eggplant stack inspiration, I just needed to find the perfect preparation.  I sat for a while and did my research.  Fifteen recipes later, nothing had spoken to me.  Some called for pan frying the eggplant first.  No.  Some called for basil pesto (LOVE!), but my basil has had a blight cast upon it this year (*sniff*) – so, no again.  I ended up taking the best aspects of three different recipes, used them as a spring board, and voila!  Here’s what they morphed into.

It’s pretty darned good too, I have to say.  Feel free to play with it however you choose – if your basil is healthy and happy, then please make up some pesto and add a generous schmear.  If you’re short on time, swap in a jar of your favorite jarred marinara instead making the roma sauce.  If you’re an eggplant fan, you are going to love this!

EGGPLANT STACKS WITH TOMATOES & PARMESAN
Serves: 6
Source:  adapted from marthastewart.com, prouditaliancook.com, epicurious.com

3 medium eggplants (eggplant is on sale)
1/2 c. (or so) olive oil – just keep the bottle handy (Gia Russa Olive Oil is on sale if you’re running low)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 roma tomatoes, trimmed and coarsely chopped (roma tomatoes are on sale)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 t. dried oregano

1 12-oz package fresh mozzarella (Belgioioso Unwrap & Roll Mozzarella is on sale), unrolled flat and sliced into 18 equal rectangles

1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
1 T. olive oil
2 T. grated Parmesan (Sendiks Imported Parmesan is on sale)

18 fresh basil leaves (12 for the stacks and 6 for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450.  Trim the eggplant’s tops and bottoms.  Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel away strips of skin from the eggplants so you have a striped pattern.  Cut the eggplant into 3/4″ thick slices and place on a well oiled cookie sheet.  Spray or brush eggplant slices with additional olive oil, until well coated (be generous).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast eggplant until it is golden brown on both sides, for me this was about 40 minutes, flipping eggplant once halfway through cook time.  Reduce oven temperature to 400.

While eggplant is cooking, make tomato sauce:  heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan.  Saute sliced garlic for 20 seconds (don’t brown it), then add chopped tomatoes and salt to pan.  Cook tomatoes until they have broken down almost completely, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.  Stir in fresh basil and oregano.  Remove from heat.

Place a small skillet over medium heat; add breadcrumbs.  Drizzle breadcrumbs with one tablespoon olive oil and stir to coat breadcrumbs.  Toast crumbs over medium heat until they are golden brown; remove from heat.  Add Parmesan and stir to combine.

Coat a 9×13″ glass baking pan with a bit of the tomato sauce.  Place six slices of eggplant down on the sauce.  Top each slice of eggplant with a smidge more of sauce, followed by a slice of fresh mozzarella, and then a fresh basil leaf.  Repeat layers so you end up with three slices each of eggplant and mozzarella.  Finish each stack by topping the fresh mozzarella with a hefty sprinkle of breadcrumb mixture.  Bake eggplant stacks for 15 – 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and stacks are hot throughout.  Top each eggplant stack with a fresh basil leaf and serve.

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Leah Damron is an avid home cook who believes in using the freshest ingredients available, and she challenges herself weekly to create meals out of (mostly!) sale items. If Sendik's ever gave a title for "Biggest Fan", she believes she would win, hands down. Leah lives in greater Milwaukee with her husband, three children, and her big black lab, Daisy."

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