Special equipment: a 4-inch square cookie cutter
In a blender, combine the pine nuts, basil, parsley, 6 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Blend on high until smooth. (TIP: Add 2 ice cubes to the blender to reduce the heat from the motor, which will ruin the color.) Season with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container until needed.
Slice the eggplants into 1/4-inch rounds. With a 4-inch square cookie cutter, cut out 12 portions. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Cut thin slices of mozzarella trimmed to fit the top of the eggplant slices. Set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To set up a breading station, put the flour in a shallow bowl and the eggs in a second shallow bowl. In a third shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Dredge the eggplant pieces first in the flour, shaking off the excess, then in the egg, shaking off the excess again and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Shake off the excess breadcrumbs.
Pour canola oil into a wide-bottomed pot to a depth of 1 1/2 inches and heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil registers 350 degrees F (or use a deep fryer).
Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and coat with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt. Roast in the oven until blistered, about 5 minutes.
Fry the breaded eggplant cut-outs in the hot oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
On a new baking sheet lined with parchment paper, arrange the eggplant pieces. Top with the mozzarella pieces. Put in the oven or under the broiler until the mozzarella is melted.
To plate: Put a dollop of the pesto on the bottom of each plate. Place an eggplant/mozzarella piece on top and garnish with a blistered tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Dominick Tesoriero