Summer is always a great time for vegetables, especially when you have relatives and friends with green thumbs that share the fruits of their labor with you. Many varieties of very sweet heirloom tomatoes and eggplants are available and really good at this time of the year.
Serves 2 as an entrée
1 lb. ripe tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
4 oz. eggplant (~5-6 small)
1/4 loaf of day old bread, cubed into 1/2″ squares (enough to make about 1.5 cups)
1.5 Tbsp. fresh basil, julienned (or 1.5 tsp dried basil)
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 small roasted pepper or poblano chili (or use 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes for more spice)
1.5 oz. parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Slice the eggplant into 1/4″ slices, liberally salt them and place them into a colander. This salting process extracts the moisture out of the eggplant and help them to cook more evenly. Let it drain over the sink for at least 30 minutes.
While the eggplant is draining, season and make croutons out of the cubed bread. I like to use an olive oil mister and lightly spray the croutons, then sprinkle some spices (such as Cajun seasoning or a blend of garlic powder, paprika and cayenne pepper) before putting them into a preheated 350F oven for about 15 minutes.
Make tomato filets by cutting it in half (or fourths) and hand squeezing the juice and seeds out of the tomato making sure to reserve the juice. Strain the reserved juice to get rid of the tomato seeds. Blend the tomato paste into the reserved tomato juice. Add tomato sauce/juice or vegetable broth as needed to make a total of 1/2 cup juice. Note that you can just use 1/2 cup marinara or tomato sauce for this step (in this case, skip adding the tomato paste).
Cut the tomato filets into 1/2″ chunks and mix them in 9″ round or square baking dish with the croutons. Add the tomato juice, basil and diced roasted pepper or chili and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Rinse the eggplant and dry the slices by squeezing them between paper towels to extract as much moisture as possible. Arrange the eggplant slices on top of the tomato-bread mixture and sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese on top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes (until the top is golden brown).
A simple salad made of mixed greens (mizuna, arugula, romaine hearts), sliced cherry tomatoes, spiced croutons and shaved ricotta salata cheese is a nice starter for the meal.
The dish is served with a side of sautéed broccoli rabé with garlic: