Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Between the Sheets

"Lasagne" di Melanzane
Layered Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, Mint & Feta Cheese

There are all kinds of reasons for me to do what I do when it comes to food, cooking and photographing the results... but at the end of the day, the main reason has to be that I like to make ordinary food look and taste really, really good. I like to use ordinary and unpretentious ingredients and make them into something special. I like to try to make meals that are seductive and inviting- it's true! I like to make food that's sexy!

This simple eggplant dish for example, looks rich and delicious enough to tempt and tease almost anyone I would think- who wouldn't want to get between these sheets of aubergine, along with tomatoes, basil, feta cheese and mint? Especially if you can then get covered in smooth, dreamy honey? Oh yes- read on my friends... you know you want to...

I made this wonderful dish from one half of one of those round, Italian eggplants, the beautiful purple ones- you know the kind! I peeled it and then carefully cut it into thin slices- about 1/4" or so, depending on the size of the eggplant. I sprinkled the slices with salt and let them sit for 10-15 minutes, then gave them a quick rinse and popped them into my steamer for 5 minutes.

Whilst the eggplant was steaming, I quickly sliced 5-6 cherry tomatoes, plucked some fresh basil and mint and crumbled up some feta cheese. And I switched on the oven and turned up the heat... because I was serious about these things and ready to get going! 

I stacked up the layers of eggplant, starting with basil and mint, then came cherry tomato slices, last but not least the yummy Feta cheese and a good sprinkle of pepper and salt for seasoning... it really was that simple! Take a look at the picture below! I added a few drops of olive oil between each layer of eggplant as I stacked them up and re-constructed the eggplant- 6 layers in all, in this case.

Being as the eggplant had been steamed and was already halfway to being tender enough to eat, all it took was a little gentle pressure to squash the layers down nice and tightly and turn them into a nice, compact form. I added a generous sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper, a final light drizzle of olive oil and popped the finished little tower of eggplant into a hot oven, at 300°F, for 10-15 minutes. I popped a crushed clove of garlic in with it, as this would perfume it gently without becoming overpowering. During baking, the eggplant would give off a little moisture and that in combination with the garlic would make for a great flavor base :-)

After baking for 15 minutes, the eggplant was nice and soft, as were the leaves and the tomato slices and the feta cheese had melted gently and was now holding everything in place. I took it out of the oven and added a nice trickle of honey, then popped it back into the oven for 3-4 minutes at the regular setting and a further 1-2 minutes under the broiler, so that it would turn everything a gentle, but delicious golden brown- so delicious! 

In combination with the salty feta cheese, the honey was a perfect addition- it also balanced out any residual "bitterness" that the eggplant may have had... and apart from that- it looked divine!

I ate mine with just a slice or two of crusty ciabbata and a glass of Nero d'Avola- a perfect Mediterranean evening meal! And a sexy one at that! Getting between these sheets has to be one of your priorities... it's all good stuff under the covers! Hope you enjoy!

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