My do-over of this dish didn’t work out as well as the first version, so I didn’t end up submitting this to food52‘s “Your Best Eggplant Dish” contest, but since so many people have asked I figured I’d post the recipe here. I used different types of eggplant for the first version and the second, and the larger eggplant in the second version didn’t work out nearly as well in the finished dish.
Go with eggplants like the ones pictured here, in the small-to-medium range and more long than bulbous in shape. Also, keep in mind that a high-acid tomato is going to make the flavor of the chile flakes more pronounced in the Pizzaiola Relish, so choose and season accordingly.
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 T coarsely grated fresh garlic
½ t dried marjoram or oregano, or 2 T fresh
¼ t red chile flakes (or to taste)
kosher or sea salt
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1½ to 2 lbs. of eggplant (not too big and seedy – a couple of medium ones will work better than one big one)
kosher or sea salt
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. good quality tomato paste (I like the San Marzano paste that comes in tubes or glass jars)
6 oz. fresh mozzarella
In a bowl, combine the chopped tomato, grated garlic, marjoram or oregano, red chile flakes and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to combine, then drizzle in the olive oil and set aside.
Wash the eggplants and trim off the tops. Slice lengthwise into “steaks” about ½- to ¾-inch thick. Salt both sides fairly heavily and place the eggplant slices on a rack for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off the salt and any bitter liquid that has leached out and pat dry.
Combine the balsamic, oil, tomato paste and a pinch of salt in a small jar, screw on the cap and shake until emulsified. Light a grill or pre-heat a grill pan, baste the eggplant slices with the balsamic mixture and grill over high heat for a few minutes per side. Continue basting until the outsides are nicely caramelized.
Remove the eggplant steaks from the heat and place on a baking sheet. Tear the mozzarella into shreds and scatter over the top of the eggplant steaks. Broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
Place eggplant on plates (on a bed of young arugula or spinach, if you like) and top with generous spoonfuls of the Pizzaiola Relish.