Baked Eggplant Caprese

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-to-medium eggplant (around 1 lb)
  • Salt (around 1/2 tablespoon or so…)
  • 3/4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon roasted garlic, minced
  • 5-10 fresh basil leaves (depending on the size of each leaf)
  • 1 large tomato (or 2 small tomatoes), sliced very thin
  • 1/3 pound (6 ounces) part-skim fresh mozzarella, sliced very thin

Instructions:

  • Wash the eggplant.
  • Lay the eggplant on its side, and cut a slice in the center of the eggplant, running long-ways.  (So, make an incision starting at the top of the eggplant, and run the knife all the way down to about 1”-2” above the base of the eggplant.  Pierce about three-quarters of the way through the eggplant – but be careful not to cut all the way through.)
  • Working from this center slice, cut more slits running parallel to this center incision, until about three-quarters of the eggplant is sliced.  Again, be careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant.  (I made my slits about 1/4” apart from each other.)
  • Use your fingers to pry apart each slit, and shake a little bit of salt into each slit – then rub the salt all around the inside of the slit with your first two fingers.
  • Once salted, put the eggplant in a colander, slit-side down (so, the uncut side should be facing you).  [You want some of the juices to drain from the eggplant into the colander – that’s what the salt will help facilitate.]  Put the eggplant and colander in the sink (so the juice that’s released doesn’t make a mess in your kitchen), and let the eggplant sit for about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).
  • Spray a glass dish with nonstick cooking spray.  (The size of the dish you need will depend on the size of your eggplant; I used a 9” x 7” dish.)
  • Put the eggplant in the glass dish.  Prepare to get your hands messy.  :)
  • Drizzle a small amount (i.e., a few drops) of olive oil into each slit of the eggplant.  Slide your fingers into each slit, and massage the oil all around the inside of each slit.  [Optional: Take note of – and really enjoy – the various textures of all of the different ingredients being used.]
  • Put a pinch of the minced garlic into each slit, and then use your fingers to rub the garlic all around the inside of each slit.
  • Tear the basil leaves by hand (I tore small leaves in half, big leaves into thirds), and put pieces of basil into each eggplant slit.  (I used an average of three pieces of basil per slit.)
  • Next, slide thin slices of tomato into each slit.
  • Finally, stuff thin slices of cheese into each slit.  (I had to kind of smash and mush and force the cheese into the slits, as the eggplant was getting a little tight by this time.)
  • Put the stuffed eggplant into the oven, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through.  (The eggplant will be a little soft, but not ‘mushy’.  If you were cooking pasta, you’d be shooting for an ‘al dente’-type texture: kind of gentle, but still with a slight toothy ‘bite’ to it.)
  • Once done, let the eggplant rest for 3-5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Makes around 6 servings (or more/less depending on how much a person likes eggplant and/or caprese).

Nutritional information per serving (approximates): 105 calories, 6 g fat, 6.5 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 7 g protein.

We begin with a simple eggplant. (Placed on a white cutting board so that you can see it.) :)

The slits don't get very wide... so justt do your best to stuff the various ingredients in there.

Chillin' in the sink after a nice salting.

The mise en place.

The garlic, basil, and tomatoes are all in - and it's already a tight (and messy) squeeze.

But I WILL get cheese in there! That's the best part! (It's not pretty - so let's hope it tastes good.)

All finished baking.

I cut the top off and threw it away (there was no good stuffing in there anyway).

A cross-section view. Hmm... interesting...

Here's how the first slice fared. (I.e., not super-great.)

And here's how it looked on my plate. (Kind of sad...)

...so I gave it some friends to help make the party complete. :) (To the right I have a few slices of vegetarian lunch 'meat', steamed broccoli. and a baby baked potato.)

My notes:

  • You really need to use high quality ingredients for this recipe.  If you can find organic eggplant, please buy it.  (If you can obtain a free eggplant from a friend who has a garden, all the better.)  The same for the tomatoes.  The basil needs to be fresh (not dried), and the mozzarella needs to be fresh as well (not factory-packaged or processed).  All this being said, I can find all of these items at my regular grocery store.

The ratings:
Mental Cost (ingredient availability): Low.
Financial Cost (ingredient cost): Mostly low.
Emotional Cost (cooking skill level): Low-ish.
Time Cost (recipe preparation): Fairly low.
Life Cost (clean up time/effort): Solidly low.
Worth It? (rate from 1-5): 2.78 – but has room for improvement.
(See below for more details.)

The Bottom Line: Will I make this recipe again?

I got this recipe idea from a fellow blogger (Chris at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide).  When I read the post, I thought the dish looked interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make it.  Then I saw that another fellow blogger (Ruth at Ruth E Hendricks Photography) made the dish, and hers looked so beautiful!  I was inspired.  And the ingredient list was small, and the instructions looked easy enough… so I decided to give it a go.

Well.  Ruth is a fantastic photographer, and Chris is a culinary whiz – and I think I got seduced by their skills.  My little eggplant looks pretty sad compared to theirs… but I also think my application of the cutting and stuffing technique was flawed.  So – if I were to make this dish again, I would redo it with my own simplified technique.  :)  Basically, if I were to re-create this recipe, I would slice the eggplant into rounds, then salt the rounds (and let them sit for the 20 minutes on a cooling rack positioned over a cookie sheet [the cookie sheet catches the eggplant juice and saves a big messy clean-up]).  Once salted and drained, I would simply stack the remaining ingredients on top of the eggplant rounds (likely keeping the same order of oil, garlic, basil, tomatoes, cheese).  I’d then bake the rounds in a 9” x 13” glass baking dish for… 20 minutes?  30 minutes?  At, um… 350 degrees?  400?  I’d have to tinker with the temp and time to get it ‘right’ – but I bet the end result would be pretty cool.

Now, the dish that I did make was decent.  Despite my flubbed attempt at cutting and stuffing, I could definitely taste all of the ingredients.  The flavors are mild, but they are mild in the ‘this-is-what-caprese-tastes-like’ kind of way.  Additionally, all of the components were well-balanced: the garlic-to-basil-to-tomato-to-cheese ratios were all in check, such that no single ingredient overpowered any other item.

I think this dish would be a nice side to serve at a summer gathering – especially if it were made in pretty rounds (instead of the sloppy pile I created this time).  The flavors are mild, and the dish is on the ‘light’ side (i.e., it won’t form a big lump in a person’s stomach).  While I don’t see myself making this recipe more than once a year, I do think this caprese would be pleasant to offer a group of good friends while sitting on a sunny deck, sipping lovely cool drinks.  :)

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in basil, cheese, eggplant, italian, picture step-by-step, postaweek2011, tomatoes, vegetables, vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Baked Eggplant Caprese

  1. Glad you liked it. Ruth’s photo was wonderful.

    Like

  2. rutheh says:

    Thanks for the pingback! Looks good.

    Like

    • Stef says:

      Ruth, you are most welcome – and you’re too kind. I think my photos simply can’t compare to yours – you have amazing skills that I just don’t possess. :)

      Like

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