This, of course, happened after we went to the market, so I did need to run back this morning to pick up the vegetable and a hunk of cheese we don't normally have in the refrigerator. To prepare the eggplant for the dough, after slicing it into thin rounds, a generous dose of salt was sprinkled all over. This is done to draw out some of the excess moisture and bitterness - be sure you place them into a colander of some sort, either in the sink or in the bowl, because a pool of liquid will come out. This won't make them extra salty, so don't hold back here - once a half hour had past, we then pressed them between a double layer of paper towels to dry them off.
While that is happening, you'll want to get your oven going to heat up. While we usually use a pizza stone, ours happens to be round and this focaccia is to be shaped into a large rectangle... so it wouldn't fit. To mimic (though not perfectly) the stone, we placed one of our heavy-duty baking sheets into the oven, flat bottom side up, at the same time we turned the oven on. It needs to be a sturdy sheet, otherwise the heat will make a flimsy sheet buckle. And in the same line of thinking, instead of using a round pizza peel, we used another inverted baking sheet to stretch out the pound version of our favorite whole-wheat pizza dough into the requested shape. Just remember to sprinkle it with cornmeal so the dough doesn't end up sticking - you could also use parchment paper if you like.
The recipe originally called for what I thought was an excessive amount of oil, 6 tablespoons - I bumped it down to 4 without cause for concern. The rectangle of dough was then rubbed with a healthy portion of the oil, then sprinkled with Emmentaler cheese to start the layering process. Emmentaler is a type of Swiss cheese (so, keep that in mind if you can't find it specifically) that is creamy, melts well, is slightly salty and has a nutty quality to it that is quite enjoyable. The eggplant is then arranged over the cheese in a single layer and to lift up its flavor, the rest of that olive oil is drizzled over the top. Eggplant is quite absorbent, especially when a lot of the moisture was drawn out, so drizzle as evenly as you can so each gets a piece of the action. Fresh oregano and more of that mellow cheese was sprinkled over to complete the toppings.
Instead of slipping this into the oven right away, we covered it and set it aside for an extra half hour to give the dough a chance to rise and puff up slightly. When you do go to put it in the oven, remember that the sheet you have in there is very hot, so be careful when you remove it to slide the risen dough on. Giving the dough that time to rise allowed this focaccia to have a nice thickness with a hearty chew to the golden crust. Between the fragrant oregano, delicious melted cheese and the warm bread plank underneath, I wondered if the eggplant would get lost in the mix, but being seasoned well with olive oil, I was happy to find it held its own with a pleasant texture. I was eager to find out if this satisfied Jeff's eggplant craving (which I still can't believe I'm saying) and I think he even surprised himself with just how much he liked it! I hope this trend continues and he keeps expanding both of our horizons!