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Author Notes: I’m really digging eggplant right now, friends, and I strongly suggest you take advantage of their abundance before summer runs out. If you’re not into eggplant, I get it. A lot of people aren’t superstars when it comes to cooking this fruit (knowledge bomb: eggplant is a fruit), and it can often come out undercooked and spongy, or overcooked, oily and flavorless. However, this perfectly grilled eggplant might just convert you. With the right amount of olive oil and a little bit of salt, the grilled rounds become nicely brown on the outside and amazingly creamy on the inside. Try it.
Tender grilled eggplant is the perfect base for fresh, creamy mozzarella. Diced summer tomatoes add brightness and texture, and the basil vinaigrette ties everything together. This vinaigrette is a straight up winner in many respects. It has the slightly sweet and garlicky flavors of basil pesto with a subtle kick of acidity from a splash of red wine vinegar. It’s light, bright and a very pretty shade of green.
In terms of presentation you’ve got all kinds of sexy options for this grilled eggplant masterpiece. Serve it on a rectangular platter (as depicted), arrange it in a circular pattern on a large plate, or make individual eggplant and mozzarella stacks. This grilled eggplant can be eaten on its own as a light meal, since eggplant is surprisingly hearty, and it’s an incredibly versatile side dish. Try it alongside chicken paillard, over a mesclun salad, or on top of a piece of grilled country bread a la bruschetta. —Serena Wolf | Domesticate ME!
Grilled Eggplant with Mozzarella and Tomatoes
- 2 large eggplants, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
- 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large tomato, seeded and diced (preferably an heirloom tomato)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, packed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch fresh ground pepper
- Slice your eggplants into ¾ inch rounds and sprinkle both sides of each round with salt and place them on a paper towel lined plate. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- While your eggplant is resting, prepare the basil vinaigrette. Place all of the ingredients for the basil vinaigrette in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
- In a small bowl, toss the diced tomatoes with ½ teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside until ready to use.
- Heat your grill or grill pan over medium heat. Pat the eggplant dry (the salt will have drawn the excess moisture out of the eggplant…magic!) and brush both sides of each round with olive oil and season with a little extra salt. Grill the rounds for about 8 minutes on each side or until very tender. Remove eggplant from the grill and let it cool to room temperature.
- When the grilled eggplant is cool, layer the rounds with slices of fresh mozzarella. Top the eggplant and mozzarella with the diced tomato. Drizzle the basil vinaigrette on top and serve your grilled eggplant masterpiece at room temperature. If you’re into carbs, I suggest serving this with some freshly grilled bread. Rustic chic!