This recipe started out as a desperate craving for my Eggplant Parmesan that just wouldn’t go away. But it also happened to be 96ºF out, so there was no way I was going to turn on the stove to panfry the eggplant before baking it in a 450ºF oven!
Instead I brushed the eggplant slices with garlic herb olive oil and grilled them. Then I stacked the eggplant slices with fresh mozzarella, and let the grill melt it all into cheesy deliciousness. Top that all off with some homemade pesto and vine ripe tomatoes, and you’ve got the best of summer going on right here.
Something wonderful happens to eggplant when you grill it, it becomes slightly smoky and really addictive. Couple that with a garlic herb olive oil brushed over the top, and you’ve got a great side dish as is on it’s own that you could serve with grilled meats and a green salad, (my current favorite is my Farmer’s Market Chopped Salad with Basil Honey Mustard Dressing).
I make double the amount of pesto you need for this recipe for two reasons:
- Anything less in the blender is hard to blend, and the pesto tends to get stuck a lot in smaller batches.
- You can use the leftover pesto the next day by tossing it with freshly cooked pasta and chopped grilled veggies for a super quick and easy meal.
I like to slice the ball of fresh mozzarella into round slices, and then halve them so that there’s enough mozzarella to place a little slice in between every slice of grilled eggplant.
Budget Tip: Basil is usually expensive when you buy it from a regular grocery store, especially when you need a full 2 cups. I purchase mine at the farmer’s market in big bags which they usually label as ‘pesto basil’, and it’s even cheaper than buying a small amount by the ounce.
Basil is also super easy to grow at home if you have a little space for an herb garden. (I’m super bummed my first planting of basil got eaten by the birds this year, and I’m waiting for the second crop to come up so I can make tons of pesto!)
For more eggplant inspiration try some of my favorites below:Print
- 2 small eggplants, 2 pounds total weight
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage or 1 Teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1 – 8 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, 8 ounces
Homemade Basil Pesto:
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cups packed basil leaves, 3 1/2 ounces
- Preheat a grill over high heat for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches 450ºF.
- While the grill heats, cut the ends off the eggplants, and slice them into 1/2″ slices. Mix together the olive oil, garlic, chopped herbs, and sea salt. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant with the garlic herb olive oil.
- Slice the mozzarella into 1/4″ rounds, and then cut each slice in half. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters if they’re large, before setting them aside.
- Place the eggplant on the grill and immediately lower the heat to medium high, maintaining a temperature of around 400ºF. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, or until the eggplant slices are completely tender with nicely browned grill marks.
- When the eggplant is tender, remove it from the grill and layer it together with the sliced mozzarella in a 9″ cast iron pan. Place the pan back on the grill and grill for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is molten and browning on the edges.
- While the eggplant is finishing on the grill, make the pesto by placing all the pesto ingredients into a blender in the order listed. Start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add a bit more if needed while blending. Blend starting on low, and using the tamper keep lightly pressing the basil downwards, increasing the speed as you go. Keep blending until a chunky pesto forms. Remove the pesto from the blender, and place half of it into a sealed container with the least amount of air space possible. This recipe makes 2 cups, so I use 1 cup for the eggplant, and place the remaining 1 cup into a 1 cup/8 ounce mason jar with a lid. A brown layer will form on the remaining pesto which is due to oxidization, just scrape it off and use the bright green pesto underneath within 2-3 days.
- When the eggplant and cheese have finished cooking, serve it immediately with the halved cherry tomatoes and the fresh pesto.