“… fresh Mozza melted and lovingly melded …”
One of my favourite savoury fruits, the eggplant or aubergine as the Italians call it is a wonderful base for a tomato dish, is yummy and a bonus: it doesn’t taste like eggs at all. Yep, not at all. Did you know it is a fruit? I did not until I Wiki’d it. Love Wikipedia! Yes I do. And last tidbit – the eggplant is from the tomato and potato family. Not only is it a beautiful looking thing, but it comes from a great family too.
The thing about eggplant is that it’s kind of like tofu in a way. It has very little flavour if any, and takes on the flavours of what you prepare it with. In this case, I’ve got some canned San Marzano tomatoes marinating in a little olive oil, garlic an fresh basil. This – one of my all time favourite ways to prepare tomatoes – will be the rock star flavour coming out in this dish.
If you are having an Italian themed dinner party, this is a perfect side dish. It can be made in advance until you assemble it, and when it comes hot out of the oven with the fresh Mozza melted and lovingly melded into it’s new friends the tomatoes and eggplant… well, honestly. Your guests are going to be. Like. In. Awe. Of you.
What will take the most time here will be prepping the eggplant itself. Flour, egg, Panko Crumbs, fry in olive oil, repeat. Shouldn’t really take you more than 30 minutes. But let me be clear – it is so darned worth it! And while you’re doing that, you can let your beautiful tomatoes marinate. And maybe have some wine.
To top these dudes off, (did I just call my eggplant “dudes”? yes I did, but with much love and adoration), I used a fresh Mozzarella cheese. Typically bought at the deli section of the grocery store, it’s the stuff you sometimes find on your delicious Caprese salad, yeah? So with this, I find that it melts nicer, has a great flavour that compliments your tomatoes and looks devine too.
Pop our little dudes into your oven about 25 minutes before you’re ready to serve dinner. Garnish them with some chopped herbs like parsley and chives, sit back with your glass of Pino Grigio and admire the beauty of them before you scarf them down.
Pretty Little Dudes.♥
- For The Tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and halved
- ⅛ cup olive oil
- Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- For The Eggplant
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 cups Panko Crumbs
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 lb fresh Mozzarella
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn in quarters
- Chopped parsley and chives for garnish
- For The Tomatoes
- Drain the tomatoes and save the juice for another use. Place tomatoes in a medium sized bowl, and add the ⅛ cup of olive oil, smashed garlic cloves and basil. Season with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar and with your hands gently break up the tomatoes so that they're in bite size pieces. Set aside. Before using, remove the smashed garlic and discard or save for another use.
- For The Eggplant
- Slice eggplant into ½ inch slices. Season both sides with salt and lay them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Let them sit for ½ hour. Wash each slice off with cool water and pat dry.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Get your flour, egg and Panko station ready. Place your flour in a shallow dish and your beaten eggs in a bowl. In another shallow dish, mix your Panko with the red pepper flakes. You are ready to receive your eggplant now!
- Dip the eggplant slice first in flour, then the egg mixture, then coat with the Panko crumbs. As you go along, set them on a large plate.
- In a non stick skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Depending on how large your skillet is, place several pieces of the Panko coated eggplant slices and fry until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. As the Panko will soak up the olive oil, you may need to add more as you go along.
- Place the prepared eggplant slices on a plate covered with paper towels as they come out of the skillet.
- To assemble, place the eggplant on your parchment-ed cookie sheet. Top each piece with a heaping spoonful of the marinated tomatoes, then a few pieces of torn basil, and finally top each piece off with a slice of the mozzarella. If you have extra tomato, spoon it around the edges of the eggplant slices.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey. Garnish with chopped parsley and chives and serve immediately.