Grilled Eggplant Caprese Salad, the perfect recipe as we approach late summer and tomatoes are ripening on the vine. The combination of the sweetness of the tomato, the creaminess of the mozzarella, the smoky grilled eggplant, and that delightful rich, acidic sun dried tomato dressing has this caprese on the podium for goodness.
Caprese salad always has me thinking of summer. It is my favorite season with the warmth, the plethora of local organic produce available, and the beautifully colored dishes that are always an eye and hunger quencher.
Caprese salad is an Italian dish which some say was first mentioned in the early 1920’s when it appeared on a menu at the Hotel Quisisana. A place where they say the founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, raged against pasta calling it “outdated.” There are other stories saying that it was the invention of a patriarch mason. It was after World War I that he loved to encase the colors of the tri-color into a fragrant bun. It was reported decades later in the 1950’s that King Farouk wanted something light, fresh for an afternoon appetizer. He was served a sandwich with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. So can we say then it was definitely one of the discoveries of the twentieth century? To tell you the truth it doesn’t really matter to me. I love a good caprese and am grateful that someone had the creativity and vision to create it.
Today with mass tourism it ceases to be a Capri recipe, and has become an international dish. The Mediterranean dream which has been improved and embellished removing the vaccine mozzarella and replacing it with buffalo mozzarella a product of Campania.
Today we are doing our take on the caprese salad adding in some beautiful grilled eggplant. Nicely charred and caramelized giving this summer recipe, Grilled Eggplant Caprese, elevated flavors of freshness and deliciousness your taste buds will be forever grateful for.
Grilled Eggplant Caprese Salad, here we go!
The key to a good caprese relies on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The mozzarella large, fresh, hand made, usually found at your nearest Italian center. Left at room temperature, then cut into thick rounds as the bigger the slice the more flavor that comes through. You could also substitute buffalo mozzarella, and if you do, drain it as it has a lot of milk. The tomato, organic, ripe, cut into rounds and rested to take the frigid temperatures of the fridge out. I turn them on the plate so that the juices really get going onto the plate. The tomatoes should not be unripe or too ripe. When cutting into them there should be some juice but they still should remain intact. The color I say “ramato” copper red. The eggplant nicely grilled after being drizzled and sprinkled with n excellent cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Last but not least the fresh basil. They say to break it with the hands. This will keep the aromatics high and the flavor robust.
With the tomatoes rested and at room temperature, the mozzarella nice, creamy and milky, the eggplant grilled and charred, all we have to do is make up the dressing. Chop up some sun dried tomatoes. We used the ones in oil in a jar. Very intense in flavor and rich in color. Chop them fine, throw them into a bowl with some cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, chopped basil, salt and pepper, a quick whisk and your dressing is ready to go.
Now it’s time to put this masterpiece together. Layer the eggplant, tomato, and mozzarella on a plate changing up the order as you go. The dance goes something like this: tomato, mozzarella, eggplant. Eggplant, mozzarella, tomato, and so on. I think you are getting the idea. A quick whisk of the dressing again and with a spoon drizzle it onto the caprese. You don’t want to bathe the ingredients with it, just spots of it sporadically. This will enhance the flavors of the tomato, eggplant and mozzarella, yet the flavors of those ingredients still come through. The finishing touch, the hand broken basil leaves which will entice your eaters wonderfully with that aroma so many love. That’s it. This plate is ready to serve. And don’t forget to slice a nice rustic bread to soak up all those juices!
The flavors are amazing. The eggplant plump and caramelized, with just that bit of smoke to remind me of being in campagna, the beautiful Italian countryside. The tomatoes juicy, sweet, acidic. The mozzarella, creamy and rich in that organic milky velvety heaven it represents. The hits of basil, so aromatic that it has your nose dancing, and that dressing with the sun dried tomatoes, robust pungent housed in that beautiful Italian gold, the e.v.o. oil. Nice bites of sea salt and crushed black pepper to liven your taste buds. Wow, what a great dish to enjoy on those wonderfully warm and sunny summer days. It is so easy to fall in love with this simple yet refined dish, that so proudly delivers the colors and flavors of products that have made Italian cooking what it is today. Mozzarella, eggplant, tomatoes, and basil, humble, yet intense.
From our kitchen at Sugarlovespices to yours.
Song of the day: “Ahead by a Century” by The Tragically Hip.
P.S. Thanks Gord Downie and the boys of The tragically Hip for their gift to us.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 3 Tbsp cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2-3 basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 1/4 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 2 heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced
- fresh small basil leaves, for the top
- Wash and trim ends of eggplant, cut it crosswise. Place slices on a baking sheet, brush both sides with the 3 Tbsp olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Grill eggplant slices, covered, over medium heat 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly charred and tender, turning once halfway through grilling. Let cool to room temperature.
- In a food processor or blender, combine sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped basil. Blend until finely chopped.
- On a large platter arrange eggplant slices, mozzarella slices, tomato slices, overlapping a little. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Top with sun dried tomato mixture and basil leaves.
- Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!
A great recipe for the abundance of seasonal cherry tomatoes is :
And a very flavorful use of the eggplant is:
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