Eggplants (also known as aubergines) are wonderful whether grilled, baked, fried, or sautéed and can be served diced, sliced, puréed, or halved. I simply adore eggplants. Their earthy almost naturally smoky flavor compliments beef, lamb, and chicken; yet also make them a star to be served on their own.
The popular purple eggplants are native to India, though there are a variety of types commonly found all over the world. Different types of eggplants come in different sizes and even different colors (purple, white, lilac, even orange). Much like the tomato, it is used and cooked as a vegetable, though it is botanically known as a fruit due to its tiny little seeds.
The trick to cooking with eggplants is to remove the slightly bitter taste it naturally possesses. If sautéing the eggplant or using it in a dish, I usually slice the eggplant and let it soak in water for about 10-30 minutes with a little bit of salt. Then I let the slices “drain” over a sieve to let them release the bitter juice from the eggplant. If grilling, baking or frying the eggplants alone, I skip this method as the direct contact with high heat usually takes care of the slightly bitter taste of the raw eggplant.
About this recipe
My father loves to grill eggplants and serve as a side dishes to his amazing fillet steak. Usually I love plain grilled eggplants (seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper), but on this particular day I wanted to dress them up. After the eggplants were taken out of the grill, I took some fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped tomatoes (seasoned with olive oil), sprinkled salt, pepper and just a little bit of dried basil leaves. I then placed the eggplants under the broiler in the oven to melt and brown the mozzarella. Once out of the oven, I sprinkled fresh basil leaves over the eggplants. It was now ready to be served. Everyone loved the bright colors added to our staple side dish. The taste was even more festive than the already appetizing grilled eggplants alone. The sweetness of the mozzarella, tomato and basil were a nice compliment to the smoky earthy flavor of the grilled eggplant. You can also make this recipe with baked eggplants instead of grilled; just add the cheese, tomato, and basil after the eggplants are baked.
Grilled Eggplants with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil
Serves 6 people (1 half of a small eggplant per serving)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes (grilling) or 15 minutes (baking) + 2-4 minutes (broiling)
- 3 small eggplants (can also use either 2 medium or 1 large)
- 2 medium tomatoes (I like plum/roma tomatoes)
- 8 oz. (230g) fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp dried basil leaves (optional)
- Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoon (TBL) of extra-virgin olive oil (3 TBL for eggplants, 1 TBL for tomatoes)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the eggplant(s) in half. Lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the eggplant halves. Grill or bake at 400°F (200°C) until browned (approximately 5 minutes for grilling or 10-15 minutes for baking)..
- Chop the fresh tomatoes and season with olive oil, set aside.
- Once you remove the eggplants from the grill/oven, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, dried basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Broil for 2-4 minutes until the cheese melts and turns golden.
- Roughly chop fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on top of eggplants once you remove from the broiler oven. Serve immediately.
This dish is quick and healthy and full of flavor. It is a wonderful compliment to any dish. Enjoy!