From Summer Gatherings by Rick Rodgers
30 minutes prep time + draining time for eggplant | Serves 4
1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the eggplant
8 slices crusty rustic bread
4 Tbsp Classic Basil Pesto (recipe follows) or your favorite pesto
2 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
4 oz rindless goat cheese (chevre), crumbled
1. Toss eggplant with 11/2 teaspoons salt in a colander. Place in sink and let stand for 1 hour to drain off excess juice. Rinse eggplant under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Build a fire for grilling in an outdoor grill. For a charcoal grill, let coals burn until they are covered with white ash. Spread out the mound of coals into a bank, with one side about two coals deep; the other side of the slope should include a scattering of single coals. For a gas grill, preheat grill on high. Leave one side on high and turn the other side to low. In both cases, you will have two areas for cooking, one hot and the other cooler.
3. Lightly oil cooking grate. Brush eggplant on both sides with olive oil. Place over the hotter side of the grill and cover. Grill until the undersides are seared with grill marks, about 2 minutes. Turn and sear the other sides, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to the cooler side of the grill, cover, and grill until eggplant is tender, about 5 minutes. During the last minute or so, place bread slices on grill to toast them lightly.
4. Spread 4 bread slices with pesto. Place, pesto side up, on a work surface. Top each with equal amounts of eggplant, tomatoes, and crumbled goat cheese. Top each with a slice of bread and cut in half crosswise. Serve immediately or cooled to room temperature.
Classic Basil Pesto
15 minutes prep time | Makes about 2 cups
2 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled
1/3 c pine nuts, walnuts , or almonds
1/2 c (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano, or a combination
3 c packed fresh basil leaves, well rinsed and dried in a salad spinner
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to cover pesto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. With the machine running, drop garlic through the feed tube of a food processor. Add nuts and cheese, and process until nuts are finely chopped. Add the basil. With machine running, gradually add oil, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed to make a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Transfer pesto to a shallow container and smooth the mixture. Pour a thin film of olive oil over pesto to inhibit discoloration. Cover container and refrigerate until ready to use. (The pesto can be stored for up to 3 weeks, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.)