Proust had his madeline, I have my eggplant napoleon.
The first time I had one was in grad school. I was working part time in a ritzy little mall outside Boston and almost every day I spend an hour’s wage on lunch: an appetizer from one of the mall’s restaurants. My favorite: a deconstructed eggplant parmesan tower from Bertucci’s, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and staked with a woody sprig of rosemary.
I ordered it with such regularity that when it was taken off the menu the staff made it for me anyway, right up until a week before I left the city and dragged my overeducated arse back to D.C.
I’m sure other restaurants have done it better, but you know what they say- you never forget your first. I certainly didn’t. A large eggplant, a basil plant, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, a glimpse of a stock photo of a tomato and mozzarella stack online, and I could almost taste it all over again. And with that taste, some fond memories of Boston. And some not so fond memories of working retail, but what can you do…
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Napoleon
Michael Chiarello’s recipe done my way
Yield: Up to you
1 lb. eggplant sliced ½ inch thick or as close as you can manage
1 large heirloom tomato sliced ¼ inch thick or so
½ lb. fresh mozzarella sliced ¼ inch thick or so
¼ cup kosher salt
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Minced garlic to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Toss the eggplant in salt until coated. Put the slices in a colander set on a sheet pan to catch the liquid sweat off. Set aside for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 450F and line two cookie sheets with foil. Brush both with olive oil.
- Rinse eggplant slices in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
- On the first cookie sheet, arrange the slices of eggplant in a single layer. Brush the exposed side with more of the olive oil, then balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with black pepper.
- On the second cookie sheet, arrange the slices of tomato in a single layer, sprinkle with salt, pepper and minced garlic.
- Roast the tomatoes 10-15 minutes or until soft and nearly brown. Bake the eggplant 20 to 30 minutes or until tender and well browned.
- Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the tomatoes and eggplant cool enough for handling.
- On serving plates, drizzle balsamic vinegar then build stacks starting with eggplant, followed by tomato and mozzarella, then fresh basil as desired. Repeat as you wish.
- Drizzle with olive oil, serve.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days in an airtight container.