These Mediterranean vegetable stacks topped with aromatic basil make a stunning starter to any meal. Make them when eggplants are in plentiful supply. For a special treat for your taste buds, if you can get it, use fresh mozzarella—it's normally sold in balls in its own whey.
Patsy Jamieson, Diane Temple
1 large eggplant
canola oil cooking spray
2 firm tomatoes
200 g mozzarella cheese
freshly ground black pepper
2–3 tablespoons ready-made pesto
2 sprigs of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
extra fresh basil leaves to garnish
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Preheat the oven to 200°C. Trim eggplant and slice it into twelve 1-cm-thick rounds, then put the rounds on a non-stick baking tray sprayed with cooking spray without letting the pieces touch one another. Bake for 8 minutes on each side.
Scald tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain well, then refresh under cold running water. Peel off the skins, then cut tomatoes into thin slices—you need 12 slices. If you like, remove the seeds. Thinly slice cheese into 12 slices.
Spread one side of the eggplant rounds with pesto, then top each one with a slice of tomato and mozzarella. Season. Add a little chopped basil to each stack, drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is just beginning to melt. Serve at once, garnished with fresh basil leaves.