Meatless Monday: Oven-Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella and Fresh Herbs
In Sardinia and Sicily, eggplant is especially popular. This is a nice eggplant preparation that is not as heavy as recipes that call for frying. You first grill the eggplant slices, and then bake them in an aromatic tomato sauce heavily laced with herbs. Recipe Courtesy of Clifford Wright.
Oven-Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella and Fresh Herbs
- 3 large eggplants (about 3 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut into 3/8-inch slices
- Sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Lay the eggplant on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Leave them to release their bitter juices for 30 minutes, and then pat dry with paper towels. Prepare a charcoal fire, preheat a gas grill for 20 minutes on high, or heat a ridged cast-iron skillet over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Brush each slice of eggplant with olive oil and cook on the grill or in the skillet until even black grid marks appear, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer the eggplant slices to a baking tray and continue cooking the rest.
- In a large skillet or saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the tomatoes, mint and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. 4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange a layer of eggplant in a lightly oiled baking casserole and cover with a few ladlefuls of sauce, then a sprinkle of basil, and then a layer of mozzarella. Continue until the eggplant is used up. Arrange the mozzarella on top of the last layer of eggplant and cover with the remaining sauce. Bake until the cheese starts to bubble, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.