|Eggplant Stack: made with the bounty from my local Farmers' Market|
In seriousness, Farmers' Markets are, in my humble opinion, Disneyland for adults (minus the roller-coasters). They are bright, full of color, and filled to the brim with amazing produce. The food is always more flavorful, and the farmers are more personable than a supermarket. You get the joy of shopping local which means fresher/healthier food, and supporting local hardworking farmers. I love filling up my shopping bags with sustainable, organic, pesticide-free produce, and mingling with the folks that shop and sell at the market. Look up your local Farmers' Market, and check it out if you haven't yet. Eating produce that is in season is better for you, the environment, and the local economy.
Summers are by far my most favorite time to go to the Farmers' Market as heirloom tomatoes are in season. There really can be nothing tastier in this world than an heirloom tomato. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill beefsteak tomato you see in all the produce sections in supermarkets, I'm talking about out of this world flavorful, delightful, fantastic heirloom tomatoes.
While I strolled down the market this Sunday I happened upon a stand with 8 different heirloom tomato varieties. It was then that I had an out of body experience, blacked out, and came-to at home with a bag filled to the brim with heirloom tomatoes. Not wanting any of them to go bad I set to work creating a dish that I could feature these beautiful produce gems.
Eggplant Stack with Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Serves 4 to 6
Cashew Cheeze Filling Ingredients:
2 cups cashews (soaked for 6 hours)
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red onion (chopped)
2-3 cloves pressed garlic
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup packed basil
1 pinch of salt
Heirloom Tomato Salsa Ingredients:
5 medium heirloom tomatoes (preferably different varieties)
1/2 cup red onion (finely chopped)
1/2 cup green onions (thinly sliced)
1/3 cup cilantro (finely chopped)
Juice from half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
*optional for spice add half a jalapeno seeded and finely chopped)
1 large eggplant
3-4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 pinch coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
To make your cashew cheeze you will need to plan ahead, soak the cashews for a minimum of 6 hours (can soak over night). Once the cashews are ready place all the ingredients for the cheeze into a food processor or blender. Blend on high until all the ingredients have created a creamy texture. Set aside.
Now move onto the salsa! Chop up the tomatoes into small bite sized chunks and place in a medium sized bowl. Add in your finely chopped red onion, green onion and cilantro. Mix everything together, and then add the lime juice. Be careful not to make the salsa too sloshy with the additional liquid. Lastly add in salt and pepper to taste (and jalapeno if desired).
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl add the melted coconut oil, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper; whisk together. Next, slice your eggplant into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. You will want to have an even number of pieces for your stacks. Dip a pastry brush into your oil mixture and cover each eggpant slice front and back. Once the piece is coated place it on the lined baking sheet. Once all the pieces are covered place them in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes take them out and flip them, and cook for 10 more minutes. Take them out again and cover each piece with the cashew cheeze. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and cook for 5 more minutes.
Once the eggplant has cooled slighted assemble your stacks. Place a piece of eggplant with the cheeze on the plate, cover with your salsa, place another cheeze covered eggplant piece on top, and then cover with salsa again. The end result is a visually stunning dish, and a mouthwatering meal for all.