I rarely cook with eggplant. I’ll admit, I think its pretty bland and I almost never have a use for it, unless I’m making ratatouille. However, here is a recipe that showcases eggplant, and, the best part is, you can make it ahead of time and all it needs is a little pop in and out of the oven right before it gets served. So, go buy yourself one of those weird veggies that Mrs. Conehead doesn’t like and prove her WRONG.
For the salad: I like to serve these timbales over a spinach salad, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette and lightly toasted pine nuts, but you can use your imagination and do what you like!
In batches, lightly fry the slices of eggplant in some olive oil over medium/high heat and drain. For the filling, add a bit of olive oil to the pan and fry the peppers, zuchinni, shallots, and the garlic until they are tender and have a bit of color, about 5 minutes. Then, stir in the vinegar and cook it until it reduces by half.
Next, add your tomatoes and continue to cook and stir for about 3 more minutes. Add your basil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Now, for the mold of your timbales, you can use a couple of different things. At chef shops, there are actual "timbale" cups you can buy, which are like glorified souffle cups, however, I like to use those big round coffee cups because they have a handle. You know, the ones that look like a cross between a soup bowl and a coffee cup? Those.
Whatever you decide to use, grease them and line the bottoms with eggplant slices to fit. Next, spoon in some of your filling, then add more eggplant slices (you can cut them to fit if you need to), before the last layer of eggplant, stick two slices of your "cheese" in there and then cover with the final layer of eggplant as you reach the of the cup. You should be able to make approx. 6 of these. Keep in mind, you can cover the tops of these and keep in the fridge for a day or so if you want to wait to bake them.
When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 400 F and bake them until they are bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Then, loosen the edges with a knife and turn the cup upside down on a plate with the salad already on the plate. Tap the outside of the cup with a knife to make sure nothing is stuck in there, and remove the cup. Top with some of your grate cheese.
Now you can enjoy! Easy, right?