This is a recipe that was suggested by my brother-in-law, Vince. He ordered it at one of his favorite Chicago eateries, Rosebud, and asked if I could recreate it. Sharing food is one of life’s true pleasures, so I was happy to accommodate. It didn’t hurt that I love eggplant, too. It took me a couple of tries to get it where Vinnie thought it was just right–matching the Rosebud version–but it was worth the effort.
It’s a really simple recipe but, it looks super elegant and the flavor profile is amazing. Eggplant Caprese is comfort food at it’s best. I love the fact that by adding the eggplant to a traditional caprese you are elevating this recipe from simple appetizer into the realm of a nice lunch with the girls or an exquisite first course at a dinner party. It meets all the requirements of indulgence food: It has crisp, light eggplant; creamy, decadent cheese; fresh, seasonal tomatoes; and a refreshing salad as its base.
The only real “work” of this recipe is preparing the eggplant and the balsamic vinegar reduction. The remainder of the recipe is simply assembling the ingredients for a salad, which makes this dish the perfect meal for guests, because you’ll spend so little time away from them to pull it together. But, please feel free to pretend it took a lot longer. It certainly looks like it did.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs. water
1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper mixed in
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 beef steak tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 1/2 cup mixed salad greens
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. brown sugar
1 tbs. vinegar
1 tbs. good quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Start by placing your sliced eggplant on paper towel in a single layer on a plate, salt, cover with more paper towel, add another layer of eggplant, salt and cover with paper towel. Repeat until all the eggplant has been salted. Place a heavy can or bowl of water on top and allow to sit for about an hour to eliminate the eggplant’s bitterness.
In a small pan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil. Add in brown sugar and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer until reduced by half. The balsamic reduction will be thick, syrupy and delicious.
Set up your breading station. One plate of flour, one bowl of the egg mixture, and one plate of bread crumbs. First, dip the eggplant in the flour, then eggs, and finally the bread crumbs. Set on plate. When all the slices of eggplant are ready, heat a pan with 1/2 inch vegetable oil. When you place the eggplant into the oil it should bubble all around the edges of the eggplant. If it isn’t bubbling your oil is not hot enough and the eggplant will absorb all that oil. YUCK! Make sure not to crowd your pan, and cook until crispy on both sides. Place cooked eggplant on cookie cooling rack. I place mine over a baking sheet covered with paper towel.
To assemble, add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on mixed greens, mix well. Place a small amount on each of four plates. Place one eggplant on each of the salads, then place one slice of mozzarella on each, then another slice of eggplant, then the tomato slice, salt and pepper the tomato slice and top with one more slice of crispy eggplant. Drizzle top with the balsamic vinegar reduction and serve. YUM! I couldn’t wait to dig in when these were completed. Adding another recipe to feed my eggplant addiction is always welcome. Thanks, Vince!
I also made a version with out breading the eggplant and using the salad greens as a layer instead of the cheese to make a Gluten free version for those of you who can’t, or don’t want to, eat gluten. It was still really delicious.