Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Napoleons with Black Olive Dressing (version II)

two 1 pound eggplants each about 4 inches in diameter
4 medium zucchini, halved and cut lengthwise into 16 slices
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 8 rounds
4 small red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into quarters
2 large Portobello mushrooms, black gills removed and cut into 16 thick slices
2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved, seeded and oven-dried (procedure follows)
1 1/4 pounds fresh or smoked mozzarella, cut into 16 slices
4 branches of rosemary made into spears
Olive Oil Black olive dressing (see recipe)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Drops of reduced Balsamic vinegar
Fresh Basil Puree (see recipe)
herb sprigs

Slice the eggplants into 12 half-inch thick rounds and generously paint both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400F oven until cooked through and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Oil, season and roast remaining vegetables in the same manner (except tomatoes) and set aside. Be sure not to overcook - vegetables should still have some texture.

To assemble the napoleons, on a lightly oiled baking sheet start with a round of eggplant and top with slices of zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms, oven-dried tomatoes and cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with an eggplant slice for each napoleon. Place a rosemary spear in the center of each napoleon to hold it together.

To serve, place baking sheet with napoleons in a preheated 375F oven for a few minutes to warm through and barely melt the cheese. Place on warm plates and spoon the black olive dressing around. Top with drops of the reduced Balsamic vinegar, fresh basil puree and garnish with herb sprigs. Serve immediately.

Oven-dried Tomatoes

Cut tomatoes in half and remove stems. With your fingers gently squeeze and remove the seeds. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place tomatoes cut side up in a single layer. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in a 225F oven for 3 to 4 hours or until tomatoes are somewhat shriveled and have the faintest bit of color on them. Store refrigerated and covered for up to 3 weeks.

Black Olive Dressing

Yield: Approximately 1 cup

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata, rinsed and finely diced
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least 2 hours for flavors to develop. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Fresh Basil Puree

Yield: About 3/4 cup

1 quart packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons garlic*, chopped and poached
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or blanched almonds
rich vegetable stock

Blanch the basil in lightly salted boiling water for about 5 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain well, squeeze dry and chop. Add to a blender along with poached garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and enough stock to make a smooth puree. Store refrigerated and covered up to 5 days and frozen up to 3 months.

*To poach garlic: Place unpeeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover by an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, drain and repeat process 2 more times. Remove husk from garlic and store well covered in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Yield: 4 servings

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