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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Grilled Vegetable Stack with Two Cheeses and Fresh Tomato Sauce

The inspiration for this creation comes from a place called The Hollow in downtown Albany, NY.  They alternated layers of fried eggplant with grilled squash, then covered with crushed, slightly cooked Roma tomatoes.  I decided to create using all grilled veggies.  So, here we go.

First, I cleaned and thickly sliced some fresh eggplant and zucchini for grilling.  I used an Alton Brown trick to remove the moisture: liberally rub kosher salt on each side of the sliced vegetable, place on a cooling rack suspended over your sink, and let chemistry do the rest.

As you can see, the salt pulls the moisture out of the sliced veggies fairly quickly.  Pulling the moisture out allows for a firmer vegetable slice when grilling and keeps them from falling apart.  I flipped the slices after about 45 minutes.

See all the water that has been extracted after 45 minutes?

After an hour and a half, I pulled the slices off of the rack and plunged in a cold water bath to remove all of the excess salt.

This is the first time I had tried this technique and I was pleasantly surprised.  It really did firm up the eggplant and zucchini.  Also, the slices were not salty at all.  The water bath was excellent at removing the salt.  To dry out the washed slices, I layered between paper towels and placed some weight on top to be sure to draw out the remaining liquid.  This worked very well in producing a veggie slice I could work with on the grill.

While the slices were dehydrating, I mixed up the sauce and some marinade.  The marinade for the veggies was a basic Italian style mix.  I took olive oil and whisked in some oregano, basil, thyme, garlic , salt and pepper.  Then I poured over the vegetables in a plastic bag and let marinade for 1 hour, flipping the bag after 30 minutes.

One of the cheeses I used for topping was an aged provolone.  The other was ricotta that I infused with a small amount of olive oil, thyme, oregano, and basil.

For the sauce, a friend of mine in Italy told me how her grandmother makes their basic red.  Basically, you just slow saute garlic and onion in olive oil with some salt and pepper.  Once that mixture starts to get soft, you add in your diced tomatoes, add a pinch more salt, and simmer slowly.

Her grandmother would slow simmer this all day long, then add pasta with some fresh basil and Parmesan cheese on the side.  I wanted some texture to my tomatoes, so I only simmered for about one hour.  Here is the end product.

While the sauce was finishing, I started grilling my vegetables.  I grilled them about five minutes a side, or until I started to get that nice caramelization on each side.

After I was happy with the char on my veggies, I place them on indirect heat and added the cheese.  this was a thin smear of ricotta, followed by provolone cheese.

Once the cheese was melted and starting to brown, I stacked up the grilled vegetable goodness, alternating between eggplant and zucchini.  Then, we smothered with the fresh plum tomato sauce and added fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  We also had some grilled sweet Italian sausage on the side.

I was in such a hurry to try, I forgot to get a picture with the tomato sauce on top.  How was it?  Outstanding.  Packed with Italian flavor and cheesy goodness, this dish tasted like a grilled vegetable lasagna.  Hope loved it and requested that this be made at least once before the summer is done.  I have the eggplant at the ready for our next grilled vegetable stack.

Thanks for stopping by,



  1. Grilling vegetables is a great way to bring out the natural sugars. We love to grill tomatoes, onions and peppers for salsa. I have reservations about today's dish only because I am not a fan of eggplant or zucchini. I would gobble up the sausage and red sauce.

    1. Chiliebrown, salting also removes the bitterness associated with eggplant. You might want to give it a try...