White Eggplant & Fresh Tomato Pie Seasoned With Garlic, Thyme, Oregano, Lemon Zest & Fresh Basil

For The Dough:

(dough makes enough for two-12" pies or one Ah Beetz! crust)

1 envelope of Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast

1–1/2 cup warm water (105F — 115F)

4 cups bread flour

2 teaspoon salt

1 KitchenAid Standing Mixer

Pizza Stone

For the Topping:

3 white eggplants, peeled, cut lengthwise, and then cut crosswise into 1" by 1" chunks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half and placed in a bowl

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of fresh minced oregano or 1 tablespoon dried, separated into 1–1/2 teaspoons each

3/4 cup Plain Panko Breadcrumbs

1/2 cups Parmesan Cheese

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1–1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, or to taste

1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil, poured into a bowl

1 lemon, surface cleaned, and patted dry

Freshly picked basil leaves

FIRST STEP:

In the large bowl of your standing mixer, I combine 4 cups of bread flour, salt, and yeast. Using the whisk attachment stir the dry ingredients to combine them. Change to Paddle Attachment. Add 1 cup of the warm water to the mixture and start to stir the mixture, then add in the other half cup until it becomes clumpy and sticky. Remove the Paddle Attachment and replace it with a hook attachment.

Beat the dough on #4 speed until the dough turns smooth and elastic. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry. You want to be able to handle the dough without it sticking to your fingers. I keep turning off the mixture and pulling the dough from the hook to check for texture consistency and smoothness. You will need to do this a couple of times until the dough has achieved a smooth elastic texture.

When your dough has achieved a smooth elastic texture, cut the dough in half, and turn out the dough into two large pots (stock pots work well) with some oil in them. Coat the dough in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 1 hour. On a hot summer day, let the heat outside do the work for you. Place your dough in a shady spot in your yard, say under a picnic umbrella, and tightly covered it so no bugs get in. I use a large rubber band to secure the plastic, and let it rise unencumbered by any annoying intruders.

STEP TWO:

While the dough rises, combine grape tomatoes, garlic, and salt. Set the dish aside for 5 minutes to allow tomatoes to release their liquid. Then, drain the tomato mixture through a sieve and give a quick rinse under cold water. Drain well and turn out onto a paper towel-lined plate or cutting board. Pat dry with another paper towel being careful to return and garlic pieces to the bowl but not tomato seeds. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped oregano and give the tomato mixture a good toss. Cover with plastic and set aside on the countertop.

STEP THREE:

Mix all the ingredients for the panko bread crumb mixture. Place panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl and mix well.

FOURTH STEP:

When the dough has risen, roll out dough on a well-oiled pizza stone, place stone with dough on it on top of the oven as it is preheating to 500F to allow it to rise further.

After the dough has risen a bit more, sprinkle the other tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano on top of the crust.

FIFTH STEP:

Peel the white eggplant and cut it into halves lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 1-inch by 1-inch chunks.

Lightly dip each eggplant chunk in olive oil and dredge in the panko bread crumb mixture.

Strategically place eggplant chunks approximately 1 inch apart on top of oregano seasoned pie crust, then carefully and artfully position the patted dried tomatoes and garlic, cut side up, in between the eggplant rounds, making sure to sprinkle the minced garlic onto the pie as well. Arranging carefully so as to make a nice presentation.

SIXTH STEP:

Using a grater, lightly zest the rind of a lemon over the pie being careful to avoid the pith. There should be enough zest, so every piece has at least two to four shavings of lemon. The light lemon zest should be scant enough to give a hint of lemon flavor, not overpower the dish. Bake in preheated 500F oven for 20 minutes, on a rack, positioned second to the bottom of the oven. Crust should start turning golden brown but not burn. 20 minutes should be perfect.

SEVENTH STEP:

When pie has cooked to a light golden brown, let cool slightly before garnishing. After 10 minutes, craftily arrange freshly picked basil leaves from your garden on top of the pie. Basil leaves should be of varying sizes; big, medium, small.

Left-over slices can be wrapped in plastic or stored in a Ziploc baggie for the next day’s lunch.

COOK’S NOTE: The second pie crust could be rolled out to a round 12" shape and frozen like a Boboli for future use. Or you can double the topping recipe and make two pies.

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