These grilled balsamic eggplant stacks are full of oh-so-melty mozzarella cheese, smoky roasted red peppers, and basil, and are perfect for a light dinner!
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I don’t know about you, but my husband and I agree there’s nothing like a good eggplant. Nice and spongy-firm, no bitterness, it can easily be the star of your dinner plate. Unfortunately, my go-to eggplant recipe, eggplant parmesan, while quite tasty, doesn’t really give the vegetable a chance to shine like it has the potential to, since it’s all smothered (albeit deliciously) in cheese and tomato sauce.
That’s where this delightful dish comes in.
When my family was visiting town recently, we had lunch at a little cafe/gourmet grocery downtown, and they had at their daily-special refrigerated counter these delicious looking eggplant stacks. Thick slices were layered with mozzarella, roasted red pepper, and basil, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. We all agreed they looked delicious, so we got two of them to share between me, my mom, my sister and brother-in-law. I thought they had a great blend of flavors but thought they would be better hot, so I set out to recreate these grilled balsamic eggplant stacks at home.
The eggplant is practically naked, just brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic. It’s grilled to bring out the smoky natural flavor of the vegetable with just a hint of charring. The grilled slices are layered with fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and basil, broiled until the cheese is oh-so-melty, and drizzled with some thick, syrupy balsamic vinegar. It’s heavenly.
There’s nothing like flame-grilled veggies, but most of the time I end up using my Griddler — I swear by it for easy indoor grilling and it doubles as a griddle for pancakes. It probably gets used no less than once a week at my house!
I served this with some fresh black pepper pasta with a white wine butter sauce and dried mushrooms – by no stretch of the imagination am I a vegetarian, but this meat-free meal was so satisfying and gourmet that I didn’t miss it at all. Eggplant’s great like that. It’s also grain-free, although not technically “paleo” because of the cheese.
Sorry guys, I can’t get enough of these balsamic drizzling shots, so here’s another one. Mmmmmm, I could just drink that 18-year aged balsamic vinegar from our local oil-and-vinegar specialty store. So sweet and thick.
We actually went to another olive oil shop today and got some pineapple white balsamic vinegar and chipotle olive oil we’re going to try out tonight. Yum! But I’m hooked on the regular old, traditional 18-year dark balsamic.
Truthfully, I only have so many drizzle shots of this because I did the entire photo shoot of these before realizing I had forgotten the vinegar! Blasphemy! But I used it as an opportunity to practice getting a good pour shot, and they ended up being my favorite ones of the bunch.
These eggplant stacks are like all my favorite splurge-worthy ingredients in one dish. Can’t you just taste it now? Almost, but not quite? Let me know when you’ve tasted it for real and tell me what you think!
Grilled Balsamic Eggplant Stacks
- 1 medium eggplant cut into an even number of half-inch slices
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Garlic powder
- 8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella sliced
- 8 oz jar of roasted or grilled red peppers
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil plus leaves for garnish, if desired
- Balsamic vinegar preferably a syrupy aged kind, or balsamic reduction
- Preheat grill or Griddler to high heat.
- Sprinkle eggplant slices with kosher salt and let sit for 10 minutes or so. This helps draw out any bitterness that may be in the eggplant. You should see little drops of water on the surface of the eggplant after it sits - brush off salt and liquid with a paper towel.
- Brush eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with black pepper and garlic powder. Grill on high heat for 10-15 minutes, flipping once, until tender. (flipping only once and leaving the slices alone in between will help you get those nice grill marks)
- Preheat broiler if you used an indoor grill.
- Remove eggplant from heat. Pair up eggplant slices of similar size. Top one slice from each pair with half the red peppers, then slices of fresh mozzarella. Put on a baking pan under the broiler or back on the grill with the cover down for 3 minutes or until cheese is melty. Remove from heat.
- Layer with 1 tbsp basil, the second slice of eggplant, the remaining red peppers, and the other 1 tbsp basil.
- Drizzle with the best balsamic vinegar you have, or balsamic reduction, and enjoy. Garnish with basil leaves if desired.