Eggplant Pizza

Eggplant Pizza’s
These little eggplant pizza’s were inspired by Julia Child’s recipe, found in From Julia Child’s Kitchen.  They’re delicious and easy and great if you love eggplant, if you want a dish along the lines of pizza without the gluten or the carbs, or if you’re looking for a new vegetarian entree.  I like to eat this as an entree with a nice garden salad to go along with it, but you could use it as a side dish as well.  Or even as a snack (as I’m doing now).

Although it looks like this dish requires a lot of prep, it really doesn’t.  The first step takes thirty minutes, but it’s a hands-off step.  Slice your eggplant into rounds about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Lay the rounds in a layer on folded paper towels, sprinkle with pepper and add another folded paper towel on top.  Allow to sit for at least thirty minutes.  The salt will extract some of the bitter liquid from the eggplant.  It’s an important step that makes eggplant taste a lot better.  So don’t omit it!  And feel free to sit while the eggplant does.  :)

I keep the sauce really simple.  I use a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes.  I really like the flavor of San Marzano tomatoes, and I highly recommend that you seek them out if you’ve never tried them.  I can’t always find them in my local grocery store, but I do find them in specialty markets on Federal Hill and in Whole Foods.  So I stock up when I find them.

What makes San Marzano tomatoes special?  Well, let me tell you a little about terroir and D.O.P.  They’re terms often discussed in culinary school.  Basically, terroir means that the unique geography and climate of a particular location impacts the flavor of a product grown there in such a way that the product can not be reproduced and taste quite as good anywhere else.

It’s the same with San Marzano tomatoes.  They’re grown in the San Marzano region of Italy.  The terroir gives them a flavor that’s incredible, and the D.O.P. protects its reputation by not allowing other producers to call their tomatoes San Marzano.

But, as we all know, labels can still be misleading.  So beware:  You want to buy San Marzano tomatoes.  Not San Marzano region and not San Marzano style.  You want San Marzano tomatoes — a small can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or two or three or more to stock up on — because they’re soooo good on homemade pizzas, like these eggplant pizzas, as well as homemade margherita pizza.  You’ll want a supply of them in your cupboard!)

So, now that you understand a little about terroir and D.O.P., I’d just like to say that finding the tomatoes — that is, San Marzano tomatoes, and not San Marzano style or region — is the most difficult part about this recipe.  The rest is easy.  And if you use regular old crushed tomatoes, well, you’ll probably be ok.  Probably.  But, as you can see, I’m partial to the San Marzanos.

Instructions:

  1. Slice eggplant into rounds about ½ – ¾ inch thick. Lay them on folded paper towels in a single layer. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and add another layer of folded paper towels on top. Let sit for at least thirty minutes to allow the salt to extract some of the bitter liquid. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  1. Put parchment paper onto a baking tray (or apply a thin layer of olive oil). Place eggplant rounds on baking tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Bake in oven for 18 minutes.
  1. Meanwhile, reduce your balsamic to a glaze: Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan or non-stick frying pan over medium heat (it should bubble softly) for about eight to ten minutes. A better guide than time is to make note of the level of the liquid in the pan before you begin heating it, and take it off the heat when it’s reduced by half. Allow the liquid to cool and then check the consistency. If it’s not syrupy when cooled, put it back on the heat and let it bubble softly for another couple of minutes.
  1. Remove the eggplant from the oven after the 18 minutes and change oven to broiler setting. Sprinkle eggplant rounds with Italian seasoning. Put 1-2 tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes onto each round. Top with feta cheese and place baking tray under the broiler for about five minutes. Watch carefully. As soon as the cheese begins to soften and turn golden, remove from broiler.
  1. Top each pizza round with chiffonaded basil, drizzle with some of the reduced balsamic glaze, and serve.

Notes:
Chiffonade means to slice into thin ribbons. Stack the basil leaves, roll them and then thinly slice.
You can purchase a bottle of balsamic glaze if you don’t want to reduce your own. Balsamic glaze is found in most supermarkets in the aisles with the vinegars. If you do reduce your own, you’ll have more than you need for this recipe. Extras can be stored in an airtight container. Use on homemade pizza, sliced tomatoes, caprese salad, or mix with olive oil and your favorite herbs to use as a dipping sauce for bread.