Grilled Eggplant and Pesto Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes Marinated in Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I am not going to lie to you.

This may change the way you feel about eggplant.

You may even actually love it.

And maybe you’ll even have the urge to fist bump me, because yes, I knew all along that eggplant is absolutely delicious when grilled.

While this pizza (as most things written about on LLN) is easy to assemble, it does take a bit time to prep the ingredients; especially when you don’t own an outdoor grill.

If you do own an outdoor grill, I implore you to invite me over so I can steal borrow it, because my stove top grill pan makes me suffer my own shining half way through the process.

But back to speaking truths.

Roo hates eggplant. Or supposedly hated it because he loves this pizza. He even stated yesterday it might be one of his favorites.

<insert surprised Scooby Doo noise>

But Roo never stood a chance. It’s composed of some of his favorite things: 1) pizza, 2) pesto, 3) cheese, 4) pizza

The boy loves pizza, true story.

And until last night, he did not love eggplant.

When I’ve previously mentioned my feelings for the bulbous purple plant, he would counter that it was mooshy and flavorless. I would say it was prepared wrong, but he would just shake his head, refusing to let it cross our threshold. Tofu was the only other food he hated more.  And peas. Sad.

I couldn’t really relate to Roo’s hatred for eggplant. I’ve always liked it, and maybe because I grew up eating it, I’ve never had a chance to dislike it.

I remember several fall nights where my mom would roast it in the oven, only to toss it with a bit of soy sauce and serve it as a side to salmon. Eggplant is one of her favorites, and when I told her Roo hated eggplant, she questioned my choice in men.  But this isn’t news. She’s always questioned my choice in men (my ex lived on a diet of Cheez-it Party Mix).

This week though, we received an eggplant almost the size of Evil Monkey,

from our CSA, and I knew we had no choice but to have it for dinner.

And how was I going to introduce eggplant to Roo?

The gateway meal: pizza.  (And in case you wanted to know, the gateway meat for vegetarians is bacon. Fact.)

With fall around the corner, I’ve been craving nothing but carbs.  Perhaps it’s my body wanting to prepare for winter hibernation, but all I can think about is bread. Warm bread.

A crusty pizza with silky eggplant, deep in flavor from the char from the grill, only to be countered by a bite from pesto, was exactly what I needed.  And now that I’ve “ripped off the band aid,” that is conquering Roo’s dislike for one of the “No no no I don’t like it!” list, I’m a little bit more confident in convincing him that tofu isn’t all that bad.  Somehow I don’t think telling him it’s “cheese” is going to be the way.

This is definitely a make-it-as-you-go kind of pizza. I haven’t listed the exact quantities of the ingredients, because maybe you like a super cheesy pizza compared to me. Or, you want a super thin layer of pesto because you want to really taste the grilled eggplant. Have some fun with it and make this dish your’s!

Ingredients

Store bought frozen pizza dough from Whole Foods (it’s surprisingly good!), or the no-knead dough recipe I always go to

Flour (to roll out you dough with)

Store bought pesto, or the basil pesto recipe that I like (pesto freezes wonderfully so if you have leftovers, freeze it for later!)

One eggplant, sliced thinly (I slice it about a quarter inch thick)

Olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh mozzarella

Goat cheese (optional, but so so good)

*The cherry tomatoes on the side/piled on top of the pizza upon serving is also optional, but Roo and I really enjoyed this “hey these are about to go bad, let’s use them!” ingredient

Cherry tomatoes, cut in half

A good balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil, if you have it, or just use a good mild tasting olive oil

More sea salt

Equipment

Two medium sized mixing bowls (One if you’re not making the cherry tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil)

A spatula (a spoon will also work)

Tongs (to flip your grilled eggplant with)

A plate (to set your grilled eggplant aside on)

A grill (and I’m jealous of you if you have it) or a stove top grill pan (that I have and secretly loathe)

A pizza stone (if you have it) or a baking sheet that can withstand the heat of a 475F oven

A rolling pin (if you have it) or a wine bottle will also work

Parchment paper (not really necessary if you own a pizza peel, but I don’t, so that’s how I slide the pizza onto the stone), or a pizza peel

Place your oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Place your pizza stone on the oven rack and preheat the oven to 475F.

If you’re going to use your cherry tomatoes, put them in one of your mixing bowls and sprinkle with a bit of salt.  Add a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Toss to combine (I used my hands).  Set aside to marinate.  (Trust me, the longer you let them sit, the better!)

Turn on your grill and set to “medium.” If you don’t have a grill like me, place your grill pan on your burner over medium high heat.

Throw the thinly sliced pieces of eggplant into a medium sized mixing bowl. Throw a good pinch of salt in there and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the ingredients with your hands (or a spatula). When all the eggplant is coated, start grilling.

Grill the eggplant slices until they are tender and have grill marks on both sides.  Set the grilled eggplant aside.

Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface, to your desired thickness. I like a super thin crust, but if you’re a thick crust person, work away.

Spread the pesto on top of the pizza dough with your spatula (or a spoon if you don’t have one).

Lay the slices of grilled eggplant on top.

Shred pieces of fresh mozzarella up and scatter over the pizza. I like to make it so that at least every slice has one bite of mozzarella.

When the pizza is arranged to your liking, bake in the oven (on your baking sheet or pizza stone) for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the crust is golden brown (or deeply browned if that’s your thing) and the cheese is bubbling (and hopefully also a bit browned).

Remove the pizza from the oven and crumble bits of goat cheese on top (optional).

Upon serving, spoon a couple of marinated cherry tomatoes on top, for a delicious, juicy bite! (Also optional)

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