Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Grilled Eggplant Stacks with Creamy Herb Yogurt
Never in a million years would I think that my blogging would become as scarce as it has in the past few weeks, especially since it’s the summer. I have so much respect for the people who wake up every weekday at 5 or 6 in the morning, go work a 12-hour day, and then come home to blog about their lives. After a handful of weeks of a similar experience (except I don’t work nearly as much as a 12-hour day!), I can attest to how tired I am. After sitting in what can sometimes amount to nearly two hours of traffic a day, often times the last thing I want to do is stand in a hot kitchen (it’s been steadily 90+ degrees every day for the past month or so) and cook dinner.
But these are all excuses – and lame ones, if I do say so myself.
Still, my lack of posting does not necessarily equate to lack of cooking. (Quite the contrary, in fact, as I have a few recipes waiting in the wings that I need to write up.) Lately, the summer produce (peaches, melon, plums, tomatoes, squash, peppers, asparagus, and the list goes on) has just been so delicious that most nights we assemble a “salad plate” (our term for assorted crudités) and just dig in. It’s so tasty, but obviously not that inspirational. Who needs a recipe for slicing up some vegetables anyway?
One of my favorite vegetables to grill is eggplant. It takes on a lovely charred flavor and savory quality that pairs perfectly with bright, fresh summer flavors. I had the idea of making eggplant “stacks” (for lack of a better term). You could call them napoleons if you wanted to get fancy, but who am I really kidding? They’re stacks. But don’t be fooled by the pedestrian name – this is one delicious dinner. It’s light but certainly filling and a perfect way to utilize the best the season has to offer.
I decided to layer the grilled eggplant, which has a soft and tender texture, with fresh bell peppers and tomatoes for some welcome crunch. In between each layer I spread a dollop of a creamy herbed garlic yogurt sauce. And wow was this yogurt sauce good. It uses one of my absolute favorite ingredients, Greek yogurt, and has the added punch of fresh garlic and parsley and basil from our herb “garden” (is it still called a garden if it’s really only a single pot?). It was absolutely delicious and worked so well to provide a creamy element in this summer vegetable medley. Served alongside an outstanding summer salad (more on that in a few days) and a baguette with extra yogurt sauce (do not waste any extra yogurt sauce!), this was a summer meal worth repeating. Even better, I can now cross one thing off my 20 Before 20 List: something grilled! Here’s to the next 19!
Grilled Eggplant Stacks with Herb Garlic Yogurt Sauce
This recipe makes enough for two servings, or a total of four eggplant stacks. Each eggplant stack contains two slices of eggplant (one larger, one smaller), one bell pepper plank, one tomato slice, and about 2 tablespoons of yogurt sauce, so adjust accordingly to make a specific number of servings. You can grill the eggplant earlier in the day and make the yogurt sauce beforehand and store it in the refrigerator, so this is a perfect make-ahead meal. In the future, I’d love to try this idea with different grilled vegetables (such as zucchini, yellow squash, and roasted peppers) and with different flavors of yogurt sauce. Be creative with your combinations and have fun with it!
Yield: 2 servings (2 stacks per serving)
1 large eggplant
Nonstick cooking spray
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ large tomato
½ bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
Flaked sea salt, for serving (optional)
Each stack contains two slices of eggplant. Two eggplant stacks is enough for a light serving, so to make two servings you need 8 slices. Slice the eggplant into thick rounds, about ¾-inch thick. Preheat a grill pan (or grill) to medium-high and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Season the eggplant slices liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the grill pan is very hot, begin to grill the eggplant. Grill each round about 5-7 minutes per side, turning once the eggplant takes on some browning and visible grill marks. You’ll know the eggplant round is cooked when it becomes tender and begins to give off some moisture. Remove the eggplant from the grill and set aside until ready to serve.
To make the yogurt sauce, combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, basil, parsley, and garlic in a small bowl. Season to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve. The yogurt sauce will keep for several days covered in the refrigerator.
To prepare the eggplant stacks, start by cutting the bell pepper and tomato to size. You’ll need one bell pepper plank and one tomato slice per stack (so 4 total for two stacks). Try to cut the pepper and tomato so that they have about the same diameter as the medium-sized eggplant rounds.
To assemble each eggplant stack, place a larger round of eggplant on a plate. Evenly spread about 1 tablespoon yogurt sauce on the top of the eggplant. Top with a plank of bell pepper. Spread another ½ tablespoon yogurt sauce evenly on top of the bell pepper and top with a smaller round of eggplant. Again top with ½ tablespoon of yogurt sauce and a tomato slice. If using, sprinkle a bit of sea salt on each stack for some extra crunch and to really accentuate the flavors of the vegetables and creamy yogurt. Serve immediately.