Brian loves eggplant parmesan. But I always found it to be a little…well…meh. I think the fried eggplant gets a little mushy and you can’t really tell it apart from the sauce. So, I wanted to find a way to freshen up the flavors of an eggplant parmesan. A way that would let you taste all the different things it has to offer. Then, I thought of the freshness of a caprese salad – with the fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. And wham! Eggplant Caprese Towers! They’re really easy, but super elegant – with bright, fresh Italian flavors that celebrate every ingredient. And they’re perfect for meatless Monday!
Fresh ingredients are key because they’re extra flavorful. My prep almost looked too pretty to eat. And I’m already getting excited because our summer farmers’ market carries all of these items. In fact, you can probably grow all the veggies and herbs you would need. That would just make it all the more special.
Gathering and preparing the ingredients is the only thing that will take a little bit of time for these Eggplant Caprese Towers. Otherwise, this is a pretty quick recipe for stellar results. And as you can see, I’m very liberal with the cheese. Since I’ve been limiting carbs this new year, I feel very justified in ladling on the fat. As long as it’s primo stuff like fresh mozzerella.
We used to live in Hoboken, NJ, which was known for fresh mozz (pronounce “mutz”, ew…). I once watched a guy making it and he just dunked his hands into boiling water and scooped up the cheese to stretch and form it. It was a very impressive cheese pull. And the stuff just melts so much nicer than the shredded kind…
With a little drizzle of balsamic reduction, you get a super elegant presentation for a straightforward, fresh dish. Man…I wish I could live in that tower…
- 1-2 eggplants (about 1.5 pounds, cut into 12 half-inch slices)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella (cut into 12 even slices)
- 2-3 large tomatoes (cut into 12 quarter-inch slices)
- 1 cup of your favorite jarred pasta sauce (or homemade)
- 24 leaves fresh basil
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and lay out the eggplant in a single layer. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Broil the eggplant on high for 10-12 minutes, flipping once halfway through the cooking time. When done cooking, allow the eggplant to cool slightly before handling.
While the eggplant is cooking, gather your other ingredients.
In a small bowl combine the parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, oregano and red pepper for topping the towers.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Now, assemble the towers. Spray a shallow baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (or line with foil). Place one piece of eggplant, then a tomato slice, then two leaves of basil, then 1 tablespoon of sauce, and a slice of mozzarella.* Repeat that pattern for one more layer. Then, top the tower with about a tablespoon of the parmesan/breadcrumb mixture.
Repeat the above step until all 6 towers have been assembled. Bake the towers for 5-8 minutes until the cheese is melted and the topping starts to crisp.
While towers are cooking, mix the balsamic and honey in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5-7 minutes, whisking occasionally, until reduced by half.**
Remove the towers from the oven and drizzle with the balsamic reduction before serving.
*I sang a song during this process to remember the order: Eggplant, tomato, basil, sauce, cheese...eggplant, tomato, basil, sauce, cheese...top it with crumbs and your mouth'll drool "please" - it was sooo bad...so so bad...
**If you prefer the tartness, you can drizzle the towers with regular balsamic vinegar to taste, instead of preparing the reduction, which adds a bit of sweetness.
For 1 tower: Calories 407 ~ Total Fat 24 g ~ Saturated Fat 12 g ~ Trans Fat 0 g ~ Cholesterol 65 mg ~ Sodium 1121 mg ~ Potassium 610 mg ~ Total Carbohydrate 21 g ~ Dietary Fiber 5 g ~ Sugars 12 g ~ Protein 22 g