Healthy Homegrown Summer: Eggplant Caprese

One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of homegrown produce. I do not claim to have one bit of a green thumb, but thanks to my dad and granddad's gardens, along with our local produce stand, I'm always filled to the brim with the best, homegrown picks. This time of year especially breeds some ripe, juicy Creole tomatoes and tons of eggplant, so I figured I better start getting creative with some new ways to cook these babies up. My mother is quite talented in the kitchen, so if I'm being honest, she's usually the base of where my recipes come from. I then usually just tweak to make it a little more of what I'm feeling.

Preston and I usually have cooking and movie date nights on the couch once a week or so, so that's usually when I'm trying to whip up a new recipe. Generally something that pairs well with whatever wine we are feeling. In this case, I was feeling red wine, so obvs something healthy and italian came to mind! And in case you were wondering or need a new red suggestion, we paired Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel with this.

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Ingredients:

2-3 Large Eggplant (I like the fat kind with the seeds, but smaller would work too)

2 Creole Tomatoes

Fresh Mozerella (the kind you get whole, not shredded)

Basil Leaves (enough for 2-3 per slice)

Olive Oil (4-5 TBSP)

Spices: Rosemary, Oregano, Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder

Pastry Brush (I'll be real with you, I used a paint brush)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start by slicing the eggplant about 1/4" to 1/3" thick. I generally go thicker for more veggie with each piece, but if you're not worried about that, thinner is fine. Place Eggplant pieces close together, but not on top of each other on a greased baking sheet. In a small bowl, put 4 TBSP of olive oil and add seasonings listed above. I grind up fresh dried rosemary and oregano, but if you don't have fresh, any will do. We are really just looking to make a good italian seasoning mix in the olive oil here. Add pepper, garlic powder, and just a dash of salt. Be sparing with salt as the eggplant absorbs it really easily. Mix them all together with the olive oil (it will appear like the dipping oil you get at restaurants to pair with bread). Using the paint brush, lightly coat each piece of eggplant with the olive oil mixture.

Next, very thinly slice tomatoes into circles. Like the eggplant, the size of the slice is really based on your personal love for tomato. Add tomato on top of each eggplant slice. Next, brush any remaining olive oil on top of the tomatoes. You can also sprinkle a tiny bit more of garlic powder, salt, rosemary, and black pepper if you desire on top of the tomatoes. Place in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Lately, I've been having to cook them at about 38 minutes, but this is with my eggplant sliced pretty thick. So, if you slice thinner, start monitoring at 30 minutes (maybe even 25). You're looking for the eggplant and tomato to begin to appear soft in the oven.

Once you take them out, it's time to place the basil and mozzarella on top. I placed 2-3 leaves of basil on each large slice, but as little or as much as you want works. Repeat the same cutting and placing method with the mozzarella, eyeing it based on your desire for cheese here. You can go pretty light with the mozzarella, in my opinion, because it sort of spreads as it melts.

And voila! You're done! As usual, my directions are vague because I eye things and guess as I'm cooking, but if you're wanting to try something new for your summer harvest, I suggest giving this light Italian dish a try!

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