How quickly time passes… last week I was vacationing in the beautiful surroundings of Italy and now…well, it’s all a cherished memory as I work my way back into the daily routines of my life. Yet, I brought back a different me from this trip. A woman who once feared venturing out alone, pretty low on the confidence pole and decision doubting, to a renewed, refreshed, totally in awe of life and beauty, humbled by my inner strength and a new amore la vita, love of life!
Enjoying daily meals of bread, pasta and pizza, was like being in heaven….and I didn’t bloat or gain an ounce of weight! I’ve decided that the bread, pasta and pizza are completely different in Italy. Made with love, the carbs in Italy nourished my body, energized my day and blessed me with an overall pleasure of eating well.
Back home now, I welcomed having several main veggie meals to get me back on track.
One of my favorite, most versatile and very easy dishes, is a simple baked eggplant. One skillet, one baking dish. Cut, chop, sauté and bake; easy enough for a quick weeknight meal….with some crusty bread and a glass of wine, if you’re feeling a bit Italian.
I also love to make it ahead, either earlier in the day or the day before, as it firms up and can be served as an appetizer, or antipasti.
For this bake, vegan mozzarella was added to the filling; however, the variations are endless. For more of a main meal, shredded cooked chicken or ground turkey or beef (I love to crumble in leftover meatballs and sausage); pine nuts for a different spin and bit of a crunch; gorgonzola instead or mixed with the mozzarella, diced zucchini or peppers…you get the idea 🙂
Baked Eggplant with Tomato and Mozzarella
1 large eggplant, halved lengthways, stems attached
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 14 ounce, fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
4 ounces vegan mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Score the eggplant halves being careful to not cut through the skin and leaving about a 1/4 inch shell.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and place the eggplant halves cut side down; cook for about 3-5 minutes until the flesh is lightly browned and soft. Remove from skillet to cool slightly.
In the same skillet, add in remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the onions until soft. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, salt, pepper and dried basil. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh from the eggplant – it my need to be cut if not soft enough to scoop. Chop the eggplant flesh and place the eggplant shells in a lightly greased baking dish. Stir in the eggplant flesh into the skillet and cook until thick and bubbly. Taste and season if necessary. Mix in the vegan mozzarella, saving a bit to top the shells.
Spoon the filling into eggplant halves. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle on chopped fresh basil. Serve immediately, or at room temperature. Serves two as a main dish; serves 6 as an appetizer.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.