This is a stacked eggplant, tomato, smoked mozzarella, and basil
appetizer. It all depends on the freshness and tenderness of the
There are few things in Italy where bigger is necessarily considered
better: among the few notable exceptions are red wines and an abundant
table. But when it comes to vegetables (ok, quit laughing now), smaller
artichokes, zucchini, and eggplant are more desirable. They are more
tender and less bitter. Eggplant is very Italiano, and Mama used
it in lasagne, or fried it and served with sauce, or as an appetizer.
Mama chose eggplant that were not the largest, but were firm and fresh.
Like all cooks of the era, she peeled, sliced and salted the eggplant
to draw out any bitterness and reduce the water content. Later,
techniques of steaming the whole eggplant for 20 to 30 minutes a la
Julia Child became more popular. The eggplant is more watery, though
less salty. Another alternative is to bake the halved eggplant for
about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, but you lose the familiar round slices
of eggplant to use in recipes. So choose your technique. I find young
eggplant don't need the salt anyway, but if it's the end of the season,
you'll probably need to use it.
Likewise, the largest tomato isn't usually the tastiest. Find a variety
you like, keeping in mind that a round slice of eggplant should be not
much larger than a slice of the tomato.
Basil grown fresh and picked before the end of the season is tender.
Grown too late or too old and it's just tough. There are now many
different varieties if you grow your own. Add your own twist.
Smoked mozzarella is an interesting variation from mozzarella. Smoked
cheeses are wine-friendly Unless you find a high quality cheese, this
smoked version is the tastiest.
One eggplant, firm, no wrinkles
smoked mozzarella cheese
Slice the unpeeled eggplant into 3/8' slices, salt, set aside. Slice
the tomatoes to the same number but thinner than the eggplant slices.
Slice the mozzarella the same as the tomatoes. Rinse the eggplant, pat
dry, brush with olive oil and hot grill on both sides until tender..
Remove and top with the cheese, then tomato, then basil. Drizzle with
Serve plated, warm or cold with red wine, such as Bambino