Eggplant Parmesan Timbales

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup fresh fine bread crumbs
3 pounds tomatoes--peeled, halved, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil
fine sea salt
two italian eggplants, 1 medium wide and 1 narrow (about 1/4 pound each)
freshly ground pepper
6 ounces salted mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/3 cups)

Make ahead:
The baked timbales can be refrigerated overnight. Rewarm, then unmold before serving.

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Brush six 1/2-cup ramekins with olive oil and coat the bottoms and sides with the bread crumbs. Tap out any excess crumbs.

2. Squeeze as much juice from the tomatoes as possible; discard the juice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes; discard the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until reduced to a thick sauce, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add 2 tablespoons of the basil and season with salt.

3. Slice the wider eggplant lengthwise into eighteen 6-by-1/4-inch-thick strips. Cut the narrow eggplant crosswise into eighteen 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange the strips and rounds on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with 6 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until tender. As the eggplant is done, transfer the slices to a platter, keeping them intact. Lower the oven temperature to 375°.

4. Line each ramekin with 3 strips of eggplant, allowing the excess to hang over the edges. Add about 1 tablespoon of the tomato sauce, a large pinch of the basil and 1 tablespoon of the mozzarella and cover with an eggplant round. Repeat the layering process 2 more times. Bring the overhanging strips of the eggplant over the filling to enclose it.

5. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, or until heated through. Let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold each one onto a small plate. Drizzle the remaining tomato sauce around the timbales, garnish with any remaining basil and serve.

Servings: 6

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