Baked Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Stack

I was somewhat complaining earlier today because all I had in my fridge for dinner was an eggplant and I didn’t feel like going to the store. I ended my night however with a meal that Kyle said was in my top 5 of all time. (Woo hoo!) I was able to pick some tomatoes right out of my aunt’s neighbor’s garden and somehow I came up with a healthy, heavenly, fresh summer dinner.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
  • Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt  & pepper

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Instructions:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut your eggplant into thick slices.

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Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add your breadcrumb mixture to another shallow bowl. Add fresh chopped garlic and parsley if you have it on hand- if you are using seasoned italian breadcrumbs it’s not necessary.  I also added some salt and pepper.  Then add oil to the breadcrumb mixture to wet it a bit. Since we aren’t frying the eggplant, wetting the breadcrumbs will help them crisp up in the  oven.

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Place each slice of eggplant in the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Coat it well. Then place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with oil so they don’t stick.

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After about 15 minutes turn the oven to broil so the breadcrumbs start to brown. Then turn the eggplant over and do the same to the other side. Spray with more oil if necessary.

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Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella into thick slices.

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I placed some fresh arugula on the plate (an optional step). Then layer the eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and drizzle some balsamic glaze. Repeat steps until the stack can’t grow anymore.

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Dig in with a knife and fork. It may get messy but don’t let that stop you.

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Eggplant Balls

Italians are very familiar with meatballs, it’s part of our vocab from the time we can form words. “Eggplant balls” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. They could really use a new name. But ever since I saw Giada make these I couldn’t get them off my mind. They are crunchy on the outside, tender and packed with fresh flavors from Italy on the inside. I don’t know why I’ve never made these before. My sister (the photographer) and I had a lot of fun making this dish! Wine helps.

I’ve never used a deep fryer before and I try to be healthy, but you can’t beat the color and texture a nice deep fry provides. I will try baking them the next time for a healthier spin, but for a splurge, this recipe was perfect and delicious. Here is the link to Giada’s recipe which I did modify.

Ingredients

2 Eggplants:

  • Olive oil spray
  • Eggplants cut in half, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Filling:

  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup Italian plain breadcrumbs, plus extra, as needed
  • Fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • A handful or so of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Small mozzarella balls (optional)

Sauce:

  • 2 cups jarred marinara or tomato sauce (I do not like jarred sauce with one exception. Jerry’s sauce. See the photo below. It’s better than sauces I have in most restaurants.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking sheet or baking dish with cooking spray. Place the eggplant, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Make 1/2-inch-deep slits over the surface of the eggplant halves using a paring knife. Spray with the olive oil and bake until golden and tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Scoop out the inside of the eggplant, using a spoon, and place in a food processor. Blend until the eggplant is smooth.

Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to a bowl and mix well.

Add the egg and eggplant. The mixture should be thick enough to form into balls. Add more breadcrumbs as needed. We made 15 balls out of the mixture, but we made them the size of meatballs. If you want these as an appetizer you could make them smaller.

We added an extra twist that Giada didn’t call for in her original recipe. We thought it would be fun to stuff these with a small mozzarella ball so there was a cheesy surprise on the inside.

For the sauce: Bring the marinara and red pepper flakes to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. This is the amazing sauce I was telling you about. And it is now sold at Whole Foods. It’s worth every penny. Trust me.

Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan to fill the pan enough to cover the balls. Heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to roll. (Giada says if you don’t have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 4 minutes. We just threw a piece of garlic in to see if it was ready) In batches, fry the eggplant balls until golden, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the fried eggplant with marinara sauce and the grated pecorino cheese. We enjoyed them with a nice big plate of pasta! What’s better than spaghetti and fried eggplant balls? We forgot to take a photo of our dinner plates because well, we were too busy stuffing our faces. Enjoy!

Eggplant Rollatini

Fried eggplant is so delicious and when you pair it with sauce and cheese it just doesn’t get any better. I made eggplant rollatini for the first time, for my non meat-eating friend, on New Years Eve 2012 and it was pretty easy to make and rather delicious!

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant (3 eggplants will fill two trays and be enough for roughly 6 people)
  • Italian bread crumbs (I use a mixture of panko and regular and mix in some fresh chopped parsley and garlic and a little flour)
  • 3-4 Eggs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Fresh Basil
  • Tomato Sauce

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Set up paper bags lined with paper towels so you can soak up excess oil on your eggplant.

If you have a mandolin, I recommend using it to cut roughly 1/4 inch slices of your eggplant. It makes this dish much easier! Set up two shallow bowls, one with breadcrumbs and one with your beaten eggs.

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Heat up oil in frying pan on medium to high heat.

Coat the slices of eggplant in egg and then coat in bread crumbs. Use your fingers to really pack the breadcrumbs on to the eggplant so they stick. Start frying the eggplant a few pieces at a time until golden brown. Then rest them on a paper towel lined bags.

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In a bowl, mix a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese with the container of ricotta cheese. Add salt, pepper and fresh basil (some use mint instead). Place a small scoop at the end of each eggplant and roll it up. Place in a baking dish seam side down.

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Cover the entire dish in sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbly and the cheese is brown. If you aren’t going to bake them until later, don’t add the sauce until you are ready to put them in the oven.

Mangia!!

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