After the fires... a good fire.
All our outdoor activity stopped for a long week as heat and forest fires raged and a huge smoke cloud enveloped our area. It felt like living next to a vulcano in eruption, everything was covered in ashes. Eventually the smoke cleared and we welcomed the return of the ocean breezes, visited our garden to harvest tomatoes and basil. With all that bounty Peter made lots of tomato sauce and pesto.
We had been yearning for a parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan) so we slid the grill over the coals in the oven and decided to throw in some portobella mushroom al pesto while we waited for the parmigiana to fully bake. Our neighbors Jules and Ocean sniffed the aroma, dropped by and had a bite... Life was good in our neighborhood! And the recipes easy as one, two, three... But then we had the advantage of home-made sauces, of course :)
Grilling the eggplant instead of deep frying it makes the parmigiana much lighter, while retaining all the flavor. In a metal pan, spoon some tomato sauce on the bottom and then layer grilled eggplant, mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and basil. Spoon some more tomato sauce and repeat the layering, finishing off with a good sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Slide in your wood fired oven that is about 450 to 400 degrees or so. It will be baked to bubbly perfection in about 20 to 30 minutes.
The great thing about this dish is that it accumulates good taste if you leave it in the fridge overnight. Keep this in mind if you are preparing ahead for a party.
While you wait... brush both sides of a portobella mushroom (use the cap only) with pesto sauce. Grill both sides, top side last. Lastly, add a slice of Provolone cheese and let it melt. Slice a good, rustic Italian bun and brush with olive oil. Grill the bread. Assemble mushroom in the bun to taste as you would a burger (but please hold the mayo, ketchup, mustard!). We were content using a slice of tomato and lettuce, to allow the burst of pesto flavor. When grilling the mushrooms and the eggplant, go easy on the coals, as they only need medium heat to cook. In other words, don't pile the coals high or too hot under the grill.
Fun thing about being outdoors and it doesn't matter if your fingers get all sticky and things get out of hand... it's an easy clean-up.