Farm-to-Fork Caprese Salad Recipe With Grilled Eggplant Is Summer on a Plate by Ann Marie Patitucci
I love summer fruits and vegetables and the dishes they help to create. I also love a recipe with an interesting origin story. Caprese salad is a great example. It’s generally known as an Italian dish, though it has debatable origins. Some sources suggest that it first appeared on a menu at the Hotel Quisisana in post-WWI in Italy. Others believe that decades later, in the 1950s, King Farouk of Egypt was visiting the island of Capri. He requested a fresh, light and satisfying afternoon appetizer. The locals served him a sandwich with, you guessed it, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. We may never know the caprese salad’s true origins, but there’s no question that it’s become an internationally popular dish.
This salad recipe adds a special ingredient, one of my favorites, to the already delicious traditional caprese salad: eggplant. It’s a great way to add in more vegetables. The healthy salad can be served as a side dish, of course, but because eggplant is a hearty vegetable, this version of caprese is hearty enough to be a main dish all on its own (perfect for Meatless Monday!).
Pair this salad with bread (to soak up the reminder of the balsamic drizzle!) and you have a quick and easy summer side dish or main dish salad. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing what you enjoy!
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 2 small or 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
- 2 - 3 medium-sized tomatoes (about 1 pound, ideally heirloom or beefsteak)
- 1 ball (8 ounces) fresh mozzarella cheese
- handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
- The key to a good caprese is fresh, quality ingredients. If there’s a local farmers’ market in your area, take advantage of the fresh vegetables there. Wherever you shop, look for tomatoes that are ripe but not overripe.
Here’s how to make it:
- Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, about 400 degrees F.
- Trim the eggplant and cut it into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Spread the slices out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides of the slices with 1/4 cup of the extra-virgin olive oil. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Slice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Slice the fresh mozzarella ball into 1/2-inch thick rounds (they should be about the same size as the eggplant and tomato slices, so cut them in half if they’re too large/thick).
- Once the grill grates are clean and the grill is heated, place the eggplant on the grill in a single layer. Cover and cook until grill marks form on the bottom of the slices, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the eggplant, cover again and grill until grill marks form on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more or until the eggplant is very tender. Place cooked eggplant slices on the baking sheet.
- Arrange the eggplant, tomato and mozzarella slices on a serving platter or large dish, in an overlapping pattern. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar or glaze.
- Take a handful of basil leaves and break into small pieces. Sprinkle the basil over the top. Garnish with a generous pinch of kosher salt and grinds of black pepper, to taste.
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