Last week I cleared my fridge and kitchen counter because I was embarking to the other tip of the country: Montauk. My first exposure to the region was the movie 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. I always think of Jim Carrey's character skipping work on that cold snowy day to take the train to Montauk. And how pretty the beach was even in the dead of winter. My best friend A got married last weekend, so we all packed our suitcases from all over the country, and trekked our way to a beautiful wedding weekend.
So back to the kitchen counter. The dinner created in these pictures was one of those that materialized on my fingertips as I grabbed for this, and scrounged for that. I had an eggplant, a mostly full box of basil, a lemon, a half full container of fresh mozzarella, and handful of cherry tomatoes and macadamia nuts in the freezer. Every ingredient except for the frozen nuts would likely be at least halfway to garbage status by the time I got back, so pesto atop roasted eggplant was the logical solution.
So I popped the oven on 425 degrees and started roasting the tomatoes. It wasn't a ton of tomatoes, but enough to blend into the pesto to add an extra fruity flavor. The macadamia nuts have been in the freezer door ever since the dark chocolate bark I made last month. I had recently bought a container of finely sliced Parmesan, that was going into my freezer, but wanted a chance at the pesto. I got a little extra hop in my step as a new ingredient idea lit as a light bulb above my head. So let this be a challenge to you to whip up a new dish with ingredients you have on hand.
Roasted Eggplant with Macadamia Pesto
Yields about 1 cup pesto and 2-3 servings of eggplant
This was a very personalized recipe in attempt to use perishable ingredients that could be transformed into something that could be frozen. Use any cheese or nut from your fridge to add a different dimension. Any sort of vegetable would be good roasted and then topped with the pesto and a little bit of cheese. So go wild with your ingredients.
1 eggplant, medium-thinly sliced and sprinkled with salt
1/2 cup tomatoes (Roma or cherry are best, but any will do)
2 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup macadamia nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Take the sliced eggplant and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or Silpat. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to let the salt work it's magic.
Slice the tomatoes in half. Toss with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side up on a baking sheet also lined with parchment or Silpat. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes shrink a bit, and the edges start to dry. If you are using Roma tomatoes, you may need to roast a little longer.
After the eggplant slices have been resting for 30 minutes, take a paper towel and wipe the sweat and salt. Flip the slices over and repeat the sprinkle of salt and let sit for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, after you take the tomatoes out of the oven, bump up the heat to 450 degrees.
Allow the tomatoes to cool while you put all the pesto ingredients (basil, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, macadamia nuts, salt and pepper) into a food processor. Once the tomatoes are cooled, add them in as well. Blend until smooth. Occasionally scrape sides to get every little bit into the pesto.
When the second side of the eggplants have rested for 30 minutes, wipe again with paper towel. Now coat each of the eggplant slices with a little bit of olive oil. Roast until browned, about 10-15 minutes. Take the sheet out, flip the eggplant and coat with olive oil. Roast this side for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fresh mozzarella slices. Broil for a few minutes until browned.
Serve eggplant with a dollop of pesto for a nice appetizer or accompanied by a salad for an entree.