Recipe: Grilled eggplant with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes

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This is my my very favorite meatless meal from the grill, and it doesn’t involve a frozen veggie patty or a sad portobello mushroom cap.

The dish I’m talking about is a complex, satisfying grilled eggplant topped with melty mozzarella cheese and finished with a bright, tangy tomato salad, a sort of elevated eggplant parm, if you will. Eggplant, which can sometimes get tough or bland, takes extremely well to grilling; the concentrated, high heat renders it smoky, with soft, tender flesh. A layer of fresh mozzarella added during the grilling brings milky richness, and the garlic-and-oil-laden bruschetta topping finishes the plate on a summery note. The resulting mix of flavors and textures is exactly the kind of main dish vegetarians look for (and often don’t find, especially not at a casual summer BBQ). Delicious and filling, this is one staple you—or your meat-free friends—will return to each and every summer.

Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a sidePrep time: 25 with charcoal grillCook time: 10 minutesTotal time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into a small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing eggplant
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium eggplants, cut into ½” planks
  • ¾ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preparation:

Light ½ chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, about 20 minutes, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, preheat a gas grill to high, covered, for at least 10 minutes.

Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil and oil in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Brush eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill eggplant until tender and well browned on one side, about 4 minutes, then flip.

Lay a slice of mozzarella on each eggplant slice, close grill, and cook until cheese melts, about 3 more minutes.

Lay finished eggplant on a platter, spoon tomato topping over, and serve.

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