i’ve been on something of a grilled eggplant kick lately. it all started with the eggplant that i grilled to start testing recipes for what became the grilled eggplant with tzatziki, feta, and mint. i took one bite of the grilled eggplant i made for that recipe and knew that i wanted to grill more eggplant stat to pair with late summer tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto. it was one of those recipes that i just knew was going to work before i even tried the specific version i had in my head (though certainly pairing eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil is hardly revolutionary).
i had originally been picturing regular sized eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, and the larger balls of fresh mozzarella (and i’m confident that version would be delicious) but when i arrived at the farmers’ market and spied the long, skinny eggplants, my plan evolved. i grabbed some plum tomatoes and the little balls of fresh mozzarella instead and got to work.
and indeed, working with the smaller ingredients did mean a bit more work to assemble each little stack, rather than just slicing the larger ingredients a few times, but the results were delicious and worth it. and perfect for serving as appetizers. or piling onto a dinner plate aside some grilled chicken. or cutting in half and tossing with some pasta. we’re not picky around here and also the recipe truly is quite adaptable.
along similar lines, i was in a bit of a time crunch and so just bought basil pesto at the store but i bet it would be really good with the almond basil pesto that i made two summers ago. yum. i’m looking forward to trying that version, perhaps with larger eggplant and tomatoes this time, just to experiment with that option. aaaand because i’m looking for excuses to make these grilled eggplant caprese stacks a few more times before summer ends.
- 1 large eggplant (~10 ½ oz. / 300 g. oz.), cut into ½” (1.25 cm) thick slices
- 1 tablespoon (extra light) olive oil
- 2 large heirloom or 3 plum or 1 pint cherry tomatoes (sized to match your eggplant)
- 8 oz. (227 g.) fresh mozzarella (sized to match your eggplant)
- 4 oz. (113 g.) basil pesto, store bought or homemade
- heat the grill to medium, then clean the grates (i didn’t find it necessary to oil mine – the oiled eggplant wasn’t prone to sticking). brush the eggplant slices on both sides with the olive oil.
- slice heirloom or plum tomatoes into ½” (1.25 cm) slices or cut cherry tomatoes in half. slice large balls of fresh mozzarella into ½” (1.25 cm) slices or cut small balls (“ciliegine”) in half.
- if using skinny eggplant, i recommend putting them in a single layer in a grill basket or something like that so they don’t slip through the grill grates. if you do use a basket or something that keeps them off the grill grates, cook the eggplant for about 5 – 6 minutes on each side, until nice grill marks develop. if you’re using large eggplant and put the slices directly on the grill grate (in a single layer), grill them for about 4 – 5 minutes per side, until grill marks develop.
- when cool enough to handle, put a little bit of pesto on the eggplant, then top with a piece of tomato and a piece of mozzarella. set on a serving platter and repeat until all of the ingredients are used up. if you’re using large eggplant and want to serve it as a finger food appetizer, fold the eggplant slices in half like tacos and use toothpicks to secure the open sides. serve at room temperature. leftovers can be kept for a day or two in an airtight container in the refrigerator and are delicious when tossed with pasta (pull the stacks apart and gently warm the eggplant and tomato, leaving the mozzarella cold. don’t worry about where the pesto ends up – just mix it all together at the end.). i wouldn’t make these more than a few hours in advance to serve to guests, though, as the tomato and eggplant both release water.