Preparation time: 50 min. plus 30-60 minutes marinating
Insalata di Melanzane, a wonderful summer dish, very popular all around the Mediterranean when eggplants can be found in abundance. In Europe, we often use the term aubergine instead of eggplant. Each region does this dish a bit differently and each family has its own heirloom recipes.
It works best with Italian eggplants, which you may substitute with the small globe or Japanese style eggplants. As all the flavor of the sauce needs to soak in, this dish is best made 30 – 60 minutes in advance.
- 4 Italian eggplants (aubergines) or 2 medium-size preferably long eggplants, 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick rounds
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil to brush the eggplants
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 lb (450 g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2/3 cup (140 g) semi-dried tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch (1 1/4 cm) slivers
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- julienned zest of 1/2 lemon (peel the untreated lemon and cut the skin into very thin slivers)
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar or high-grade red wine vinegar
- 1 cup (225 g) mozzarella or bocconcini
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup (60 g) pine nuts toasted (optional)
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the eggplant rounds on a lined baking tray. Mix the olive oil and the crushed garlic and brush both sides of the eggplant rounds. Season with salt and pepper and roast them on both sides until golden and tender, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. When done, set aside to cool.
Soak the finely sliced onion in cold water for 10 minutes to extract its acidity. Drain onion well and place it on a paper towel. Place the cherry tomato halves, the roasted eggplants, onions, semi-dried tomatoes and the julienned zest of lemon in a bowl. Prepare a vinaigrette with the 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle it over the eggplant-tomato mixture. Add the mozzarella sliced or broken into bite-size pieces. Scatter the basil leaves. They can be bought at most well-stocked supermarkets like Whole Foods, Trader’s Joe and Publix. and the roasted pine nuts (optional) over the salad and toss everything gently again. Serve after 30 – 60 minutes marinating (in the fridge) with a crusty bread.