Before Greg and I went to Italy, I don’t think I had ever had eggplant; not because I had an aversion but because I had just never thought about it. That changed when we were staying in Radda in Chianti and my eyes were forever opened to eggplant. The little villa we stayed at, Relais Vignale, had a wonderful restaurant on-site. The first night we were there, we stumbled in there, exhausted, and had the waiter chose our food for us. The appetizer that he brought was their version of eggplant parmesan. Most of the eggplant parmesan that I had seen in the states was breaded and fried. This was not. It was fresh and flavorful and bright. So dang yummy. As soon as we got home I started trying to recreate it. This is the closest I have gotten, and it is so good. It is also very easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. Give it a try and I am sure you will become an eggplant fan like us!
3 to 4 Roma tomatoes
8-12 large basil leaves
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (plus more for coating the eggplant)
½ cup grated parmesan
12 thin slices fresh mozzarella
Garlic powder to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
* First, choosing the eggplant is sort of a science. I have learned that the smaller the eggplant, usually the better. They have less seeds. Also any markings on the outside, mean discoloration on the inside so the smoother the skin the better the eggplant. Finally, use the eggplant within a day or two of purchasing. The first time I bought eggplant I figured it was kind of like zucchini and could stay in the fridge for a few days and I was very disappointed to find that it was basically rotten already. They have to be used very quickly.
- Slice the eggplant into slices that are about ¼ – ½ inch thick. Usually an eggplant will produce about a dozen of these slices but it may vary.
- Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and, using a pastry brush, coat one side of the slices in olive oil.
- Sprinkle the same side with salt, pepper and a little bit of garlic powder.
- Place the slices, olive oil side down, onto a frying pan heated on high heat. I usually use our cast iron pan for this so that I don’t stain our stainless ones. If it is warn outside, it also works to grill them.
- Cook the first side of the eggplant slices for about 2 minutes or until they start to get some dark marks on them and become slightly transparent.
- Coat the other side with olive oil while they are cooking and then flip them to cook the other side.
- Once the first batch is done, place them back on the baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining slices.
- While the eggplant cooking is going on, empty the seeds from the roma tomatoes and dice them into small squares, placing them into a small bowl.
- Chop the basil and add it to the bowl with the romas.
- Add the 2 Tbs of olive oil to the tomato and basil mixture.
- Add a few turns of freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Toss to coat.
- Once all of the eggplant has been cooked and returned to the baking sheet, spoon the tomato mixture onto the slices. Usually about at Tablespoon of the mixture per slice but it depends on the size of the eggplant.
- On top of the tomato, sprinkle some parmesan and then place a slice of the mozzarella on each one.
- Finally, place the baking sheet into the oven and under the broiler just until the cheese starts to bubble and get a little brown, like the picture. The time will vary based on the oven.
Serve as an appetizer or as a main dish. I have done both. And enjoy!