About this recipe
By Gennis Lafayette, N.C.
Side note: For a fun appetizer, try smaller varieties of the same ingredients, such as Japanese eggplant, sliced cherry tomatoes and sliced whole feta or fresh mozzarella. Secure them with soaked bamboo picks.
Cut eggplant crosswise into ½-inch-thick circles. Lightly season each side of the slices with salt and let rest on a cutting board for 30 minutes to draw out some of the water. Shake off the water or dab with a clean towel.
Once ready, drizzle some olive oil on each slice and grill on a lightly oiled grill rack (or on the stove-top in a grill pan) for 2–3 minutes per side.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Blend the basil leaves with the olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon juice, zest, walnuts, salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a blender or mini food processor until smooth.
Cut tomatoes crosswise to ¼-inch-thick rounds.
Lightly oil baking dish and arrange 4 grilled eggplant rounds side by side. Spread a thin layer of the basil-garlic oil on top of each one, and then generously sprinkle with cheese crumbs. Top each with a tomato ring. Add 1 more layer of eggplant, basil oil, cheese and tomato. End with slice of eggplant topped with basil oil and cheese. Note: If you end up with more eggplant and tomatoes, you can build additional layers, taking care that they don’t topple over.
Bake for 15 minutes (top of cheese will just start to caramelize). Remove from oven, top each stack with a fresh basil leaf. Serve immediately. Can be served on top of a bed of quinoa, angel hair pasta or alone.