Cheesy Roasted Eggplant Pie, Tomatoes, Basil
We may have a few fogeys, every neighborhood does, but on the other hand, over the course of many years, I have always counted among my top blessings as having one of the truly best neighborhoods in the world. Mostly, it has really been a place sprinkled with amazing friends.
More than a place where one can borrow a cup of sugar on a whim, or politely just say Hello. It’s a crazy thing really, for within this community even among some neighbors I may be out of contact with for years when I look back on the memories of my life, those memories shared in special moments, these very people, neighbors, continue on a special list in my heart of those I shall always consider dear friends.
Perhaps our children eventually went to different schools, participated in different activities, some may have become busier in business pursuits, or involved in varied social activities, others may even have moved away and were relocated over the years but each connects us to a special moment of time, a celebration, a joy, even a suffering, these many things that at some moment we have each specially shared together. This community has always been so much more than just a neighborhood, its people so much more than simply neighbors. Its core, the home of friendship.
I was recently reminded of this in a rather profound way when one of these special friend, neighbors, recently took ill, and all within me was compelled for her care. Admittedly, I was rather in hysteria seeing her in such tremendous pain. We spent a lot of time together as our children were growing up, eventually only seeing each other for a few lunches a year. It was an irony in our recent contact, which happened to surround food that landed us back together at this particular time when twenty-three years ago I was also joining her for testing due to another health ailment. What fate is it that after all these years bringing us together again at this very time?
As we sat together on the hospital bed while visiting something very special occurred, it was not about the memories of raising our children, string concerts, or the children’s holiday caroling followed by hot chocolate and treats in the past, it was about the now, this moment. It is one of those reasons I shared that keeps each of these neighbors, more importantly friends, on that forever list as if on permanent speed dial.
My dear friend and neighbor, is now recuperating and will be home tomorrow or the next day and she will be fine. Maybe we will have more lunches together now, maybe we won’t, our bond however, is inextricable.
As some younger generations of families move into our neighborhood with small children, I find myself in such great delight whenever seeing them gather together, children playing, parents having a beer, celebrating with a barbecue, maybe even sharing some impromptu meal like Cheesy Roasted Eggplant Pie, Tomatoes, Basil, or a tended steamy slow cooker meal prepared for all to join together on a cold snowy night.
Eventually some may go to different schools, be involved in different activities, their families become further involved in business pursuits or varying social activities. But for right now, these moments are their building blocks. In seeing these together I am always inspired in making a special secret wish that the very same continuance of neighborhood bonding, one that endures, the magical intangible that keeps them each tied together in friendship, always remains in their hearts too.
The neighborhood. One that has always been about far more than borrowing a mere cup of sugar on a whim, or just saying hello, at its core is the home of friendship.
- 2 eggplants, sliced into half inch rounds
- 1/4 cup, or a bit more, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 12 vine ripened tomatoes, cut in half, squeezed lightly to remove seeds, chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
- coarse kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- 4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds then cut in half
- 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 or more fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled, then cut into thin strips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch ceramic pie dish
- Toss eggplant slices with a quarter cup of olive oil and a few pinches of salt then evenly spread across 2 parchment lined baking sheets pans. Roast until cooked and tender, around 35 minutes or longer
- Meanwhile on very low temperature, heat a saute pan deep enough to hold the tomatoes, pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil, swirl to cover pan then add in garlic. Cook garlic for a minute or so just to soften, tumble in the tomatoes, increase heat to medium high, cook to reduce some of the tomato liquid, pour in the red wine, stir and continue cooking until reduced by half, sprinkle in a couple pinches each salt and pepper, stir, check seasoning, adjust to taste. Turn off heat, fold through fresh parsley
- Sprinkle mozzarella pieces lightly with pinches of salt and some cracked black pepper
- Ladle fresh cooked tomatoes sauce in the bottom of the greased pie dish, top with cooked eggplant slices all around the bottom. Spoon some cooked tomatoes on top of the eggplant, line a layer of mozzarella pieces then a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese finishing with some fresh basil strips. Repeat the layers using the sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, Parmesan, and fresh basil strips reserving a few basil strips for garnish once eggplant pie is cooked for serving.
- Decoratively top pie with some spoons of sauce in between mozzarella slices before finishing with remaining Parmesan. Any excess juices from the tomatoes may be carefully poured out of the pie dish, wipe pie dish clean all around. Cover with aluminum foil and set onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour until bubbling hot and cheese is melted all around. Remove foil then broil top for a couple minutes until cheese begins turning a golden color Let Pie set for ten minutes before cutting. Garnish with fresh strips of basil