Grilled Eggplant Stacks
Before my daughter’s wedding two years ago, we were looking for a first-place course for the reception dinner, a starter to the meal that could be plated and placed on the table in advance. It needed to be a course that was delicious at room temperature, and one that would actually improve in flavor as the seasonings and ingredients had time to mingle together on the plate.
Enter Eggplant Stacks!
It was this very recipe — a stack of grilled eggplant slices and tomato, seasoned with a fresh basil oil and adorned with crumbled feta. I love this recipe because it saved my day when planning that wedding meal, and also because it’s delicious any day, alone or alongside a grilled steak or piece of chicken. And when you’ve got really good tomatoes, one bite of this stack says summertime.
GRILLED EGGPLANT STACKS RECIPE:
Makes: 6 to 12 servings | Prep: 35 to 40 minutes | Grill: 7 to 8 minutes | Bake: 6 to 7 minutes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large or 3 medium eggplants (2 to 3 pounds; 24 slices)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large tomatoes (for 12 slices total)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
Arugula, for serving
Make the basil oil: Place the basil leaves, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Process the basil until it is finely chopped. Line a sieve with paper towels and place it over a bowl. Pour the basil and oil mixture onto the paper towels and press gently on the mixture to extract the oil from the basil. About 1/3 cup of basil oil will seep into the bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the basil oil for garnishing the stacks. Set aside the chopped basil leaves on the paper towels.
Make the eggplant stacks: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Or, preheat an indoor stovetop grill.
Trim the ends off the eggplants, then cut them into 24 slices that are a little less than 1/2-inch thick. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with the basil oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill the eggplant slices until they soften and are crisp around the edges, 7 to 8 minutes, turning once. Transfer the grilled eggplant to a platter.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the tomatoes into 12 slices, each about 1/3-inch thick, discarding the end slices or setting them aside for another use.
For 12 short stacks, select 12 large slices of grilled eggplant and place them on a baking sheet. Spread each with 1/2 teaspoon of the reserved chopped basil. Top each with a slice of tomato and add a generous spoonful of feta cheese. Top the cheese with another eggplant slice and finish the stack with another heaping tablespoon of feta.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the stacks until the eggplant is warmed through and the feta has melted slightly, 6 to 7 minutes.
To serve, place the eggplant stacks on a long platter, or place them on a bed of arugula on the platter. Drizzle the reserved 1 tablespoon basil oil over the stacks.
For taller stacks: Use additional eggplant, tomatoes, cheese, and basil to make them higher. They will take a little longer to heat through. And you will need to make more basil oil, too. It can be made up to 6 hours in advance and left at room temperature.