Sometimes I get a little ambitious at the farmer's market. Not ALL the time (don't listen to Hugh) but sometimes. I had plans for the basil, the dill, the kale, the poblanos, and the tomatoes. But the eggplants I picked up because... well, look how pretty! The white one is still awaiting its fate, but it looks like an egg from space, huh? Maybe that's gross. Anyway.
I knew I wanted to keep them somewhat intact because again, look how pretty! But it was just Adam and me so we only reeeally needed one to feed us. One beautiful stripey eggplant, brushed with olive oil and grilled:
And stacked up with polenta disks (I had a package in the pantry of pre-made, all I had to do was slice it, brush it with olive oil, and bake it) and roasted peppers (from a jar, look at me cheating my way through dinner!). Also in the pile: feta cheese, basil, pine nuts and a tangy dressing/sauce of garlic, crushed pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil (inspired by the one in this eggplant recipe over at Kalyn's Kitchen, it has a nice little kick from the pepper flakes). Apparently the pine nuts didn't make it into the photos. Oops. Oh, and if you're wondering what I mean by "tube" of polenta, this is what I mean.
A note: these will not stay together as you eat them. They just won't. Attack with a fork and knife and be happy in the memory of your previously pretty plate.
There was probably enough food here for four as a first course, but for the two of us it was a light meal. We made one stack each and then just poured the rest of the sauce on the leftover eggplant and polenta. And then I ate about 90% of that plate, too. Oink.
Eggplant and Polenta Stacks
I used a tube of pre-made polenta for this dish, so I got nice little circles just from slicing it. You could also prepare polenta from scratch, spread it thickly on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, then cut it into pieces to bake. Use a biscuit cutter for circles or cut free-hand and go for that rustic, carefree look.
1 globe eggplant
1 tube pre-made polenta (or your own, cooled and cut)
roasted red peppers (your own or from a jar, you'll need one pepper for every two stacks)
handful of basil, chiffonade
half a handful of pinenuts, toasted
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a few grinds black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F and the grill to medium-hot. Trim the top of the eggplant and slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the polenta into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Brush the polenta rounds with olive oil and lay out on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then stick in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. I ended up broiling mine for a few minutes at the end because I wanted a little color on them.
Once the polenta is in the oven, squeeze excess moisture out of the eggplant slices with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and place directly on the rack of a (clean!) grill. Flip after 5 minutes and grill the other side for 5 more until it's soft and delicious but not falling apart.
Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and taste - if it's too acidic, add more oil, if it's too oily, add more lemon juice. Slice the pepper into four equal pieces - I bisected mine the long way then cut each long half into two pieces.
Assemble the stacks, starting with eggplant, then polenta, then a small crumble of feta, then a piece of pepper. Another piece of eggplant, polenta, feta, pepper. Sprinkle with basil and a few pine nuts, then spoon the sauce over the stack.