Three years ago today, Gustavo and I became official. We had met on OKCupid in early December, but he was in Texas and I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, so naturally it took a while to coordinate the logistics. Just over three years ago, I embarked on the very, very long drive to Lubbock, against all common sense. Fortunately he wasn’t an ax murderer, and we’ve been together ever since. It’s amazing how much has happened and how many places we’ve been in just a few years… but I digress.
Not long after we started chatting, Gustavo admitted to me that he hated vegetables and his usual dinner consisted of either chicken or steak with either rice or pasta. Naturally, I was horrified. When we met in person a few weeks later, I cooked him these eggplant stacks.
In hindsight, he claims that was the moment that he was stuck with me, because if I could make him like vegetables, I was a keeper.
The trick, as with pizzas, is to make each component taste good on its own. If you wouldn’t happily sneak bite after bite of garlic mushrooms with goat cheese, or caramelized onions, or spicy San Marzano tomato sauce, then substitute things you prefer! I personally love this combination, with the earthy mushrooms, sweet onions, bright goat cheese, and spicy sauce all supported by the eggplant, but absolutely feel free to play with it and make it your own.
Eggplant Stacks with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Spicy San Marzano Sauce
Caramelize the onion:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the onion fairly thinly (but not paper-thin).
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and immediately reduce the heat to low.
- Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until caramelized, richly golden, and sweet. This will take 30 to 45 minutes; don’t try to rush it!
Roast the eggplant with garlic oil:
- Slice the eggplant into approximately 1/2-inch rounds. Brush each one with garlic-infused olive oil on both sides, place on the prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.
- Roast the eggplant until it’s tender and beginning to brown in places, approximately 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
Sauté the mushrooms with garlic and goat cheese:
- Thinly slice 3 large garlic cloves. Sauté the slices very briefly in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, just until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add the 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms give up their juices and the resulting juice just begins to dry off. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, then add the 4 ounces of goat cheese. Stir until it’s mostly melted, then turn off the heat and continue stirring until it melts completely and coats the mushrooms in a rich, thick sauce.
Assemble and serve:
- Spoon 1/4 cup of the San Marzano sauce onto a plate. Place an eggplant slice on top. Add a layer of goat cheese mushrooms. Top with another eggplant slice, then a layer of caramelized onions, then another eggplant slice. Spread 1/8 cup of San Marzano sauce on top of that, put another eggplant slice on top, and then top with some caramelized onions, and a bit of basil.
- In other words, the order starting from the bottom goes: San Marzano sauceEggplantMushrooms with goat cheeseEggplantCaramelized onionsEggplantSan Marzano sauceEggplantCaramelized onionsBasil