There’s a point every summer when the garden is far enough along and there are countless round, green tomatoes of all sizes weighing down unruly six foot-tall-plants. In that moment, I wonder why I thought we’d never have enough tomatoes or zucchini and I was convinced it was a solid idea to plant just one more seedling because we “have room!” I am very much my father’s daughter in this respect and I have to laugh at myself every year, thanking him from 130 miles away that I inherited his ability to max out whatever it is I’m doing. Tomatoes, especially. There will be time for us to talk about tomatoes soon enough. Today, we really need to talk about is this delightful and painfully easy marinated eggplant dish. All you need to do is make it to the market this week and find a fresh, young eggplant and heaps of fresh basil (or perhaps you already have some of both growing and at the ready). Don’t forget to pick up a good loaf of crusty bread because you’ll need that, too.
This marinated eggplant is one of those recipes my mom always puts together when there’s an extra eggplant laying around the ‘frigo (that’s normal, right?). It’s sort of a staple – it’s always around and it’s always so, so good. Most of all – it reminds me of home. You have my Ma, Mary Bee, to thank for this.
This usually makes an appearance on Sunday afternoons when my sister and I are both in the same place at the same time – an unfortunately rare occurrence these days as our adult lives keep us mostly in opposite time zones. We spend hours around our parents’ kitchen table in sweats and last night’s hair, talking about nothing and everything, eating obscene amounts this layered balsamic-y, garlicky, magical eggplant, among other marinated, grilled, roasted, and cured odds and ends. And bread, because… carbs are holy. Although home is not really that far away, this is one of those recipes that reminds me… Ma always knows best.
Make this – and if you can stand it – give it 24 hours to marinate. You might not be able to contain yourself, though, so no judgement here. The eggplant makes great for a quick before-dinner snack with a glass of wine, or in a larger serving with more bread can make for a great lunch on it’s own. Pair it with roasted red peppers and some cheese for a quick sandwich or as part of an antipasti tray for a weekend get-together. It’s incredibly versatile, but equally as delicious on it’s own.
Recipe for Mary Bee’s Marinated Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar + Basil
Note: The measurements of oil and balsamic vinegar for this recipe are really subjective. You’ll need to at least a hefty drizzle to coat both sides of your eggplant for roasting, but for the marinade portion of the recipe, the balsamic and oil ration is really up to you. I prefer a pretty well-marinated eggplant so that each slice is easily recognizable as such, but that it’s easily spread onto bread. Garlic is also easily scaled up or down, depending on your preference for the zip of fresh cloves. You could also opt to roast the garlic with the eggplant if that is more to your liking. If you have the grill fired up, you could also throw the well-oiled eggplant on instead of for an extra dose of Summer.
1 medium to large eggplant, as fresh as possible
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, at least a half cup
Balsamic vinegar, at least ¼ cup
1 cup fresh basil, torn into large pieces
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1) Preheat oven to 425F.
2) Slice: Slice eggplant: into ¼ – ½ inch rounds, as evenly as you can. Rotate eggplant as you’re cutting to help keep the slices at an even thickness.
Salt: Spread eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. You may need to do layer up the slices depending on the size of your colander and that’s and that’s ok. Let sit for about 15 minutes while your oven heats.
Note: If you end up with an eggplant that has a lot of seeds when you cut it open, let it sit for an extra 10 minutes. The salt will help draw out any bitterness the seeds impart on the fruit. Smaller, less seedy eggplants need less time.
3) Roast: Dry any moisture on your slices and arrange on a stainless steel sheet pan.
Note: I usually need two pans for one eggplant, so if you only have one just do this in two batches. Don’t overcrowd your pan.
Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle on both sides and black pepper on one. Roast for 25 minutes or so until slices are slightly browned on each side, flipping halfway through.
Note: You can also opt spray your pan if you’re worried about stickage. Just keep an eye on ‘em and they’ll be fine.
When eggplant are finished roasting, let them sit for about 10 minutes to slightly cool. You want them to be warm when you marinate, but not fresh out of the oven hot.
4) Layer It Up: Choose glass or ceramic container or bowl that can double as storage, especially if you’re going to wait to eat this until the next day. Ideally, one with a tight fitting lid. I like to give the whole mess a few good shakes at the end.
Start with a swirl of olive oil and a little of the vinegar. Nestle in a few slices of eggplant; you can pack tightly here. Sprinkle with a bit of garlic and basil. Top with a bit more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Repeat the layers until you’ve used all of your eggplant, top with one last drizzle of balsamic, cover and give a good shake or three.
If you’re sure how much vinegar to use, err on the light side. You can always add more.
Store this for up to a week in the ‘frigo, but it won’t last that long.