Friday, September 7, 2012

Eggplant, Solanum melongena and Grilled Eggplant Tomato Stack

This year we tried several new heirloom eggplants, one of which is Solanum melongena 'Listada de Gandia'. Sources vary as to where this was first introduced: some indicate France, Italy and/or Spain around 1850. Its name may reflect Spain, as Listada means striped in Portuguese, Italian and Spanish, but de Gandia is a town on the Mediterranean in Spain. 

A medium-sized eggplant with stunning 6-8" long oval fruits of creamy-white with purple stripes grow on a relatively compact plant. It is a delicious thin-skinned specimen with excellent flavor and takes about 90 days to harvest.

Solanum melongena 'Listada de Gandia'
 S. melongena 'Rosa Bianca' is a repeat performer for us as we grew it for the first time last season and fell in love with not just its gorgeous light pink-lavender fruit with white shading, but the wonderful flavor and tender skin of this Italian heirloom. 80-90 days to harvest, and as with all eggplant, they love sun and heat. Both eggplants can be used in almost any dish.

S. melongena 'Rosa Bianca'
Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stack with Balsamic Reduction from Diana's kitchen

Heirloom tomato, thickly sliced (3/4 of an inch)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh basil, sliced
Rosa Bianco eggplant, unpeeled and thickly sliced, about 3/4 inch
1 egg, slightly beaten
Panko or bread crumbs
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh mozzarella, sliced, about 1/2 inch
balsamic reduction (see below)

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle each with a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and set aside on a platter. Slice the soft mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with basil and put it aside.

Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg, then into the panko, and transfer to a heated frying pan with olive oil. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and saute until golden brown, several minutes on each side. Saute until slightly fork tender and maintains some firmness. Remove and transfer to a plate for assembly.

Assemble: grilled eggplant, slice of mozzarella with basil strips, tomato, mozzarella (with basil), and top with another grilled eggplant. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Note: The 'Listada de Gandia' was fairly comparable in flavor with 'Rosa Bianca', but the girth of the latter is more desirable with the fresh large garden tomatoes. That's dinner tonight, and I can already taste it... like a big thick portobello mushroom, but with enhanced flavor.

Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Place the vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan. Heat on medium-high until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vinegar becomes a syrupy consistency, 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

It will become slightly thicker when cool; if it is too thick, I add a touch more balsamic; if it is too thin, put it back on the stove for further reduction. 1/2 cup of vinegar should yield slightly over 1/4 cup. Keep it stored at room temperature.