The time is upon us that we will soon face a monumental challenge. In an annual expression of celebration, festivity and just a touch of gluttony, the holiday eating season is fast approaching. The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years Day brings an unwelcome gift- an increase in caloric intake, accepted and expected overeating, and possibly an extra few pounds. In an effort to defray the caloric costs of the impending foodpalooza, I'm focusing on healthy recipes that may provide tasty alternatives to the traditional calorie laden holiday favorites. In the spirit of full disclosure, there might be just a tad of selfish motivation behind this. A baking bonanza of holiday belly bombs and non traditional goodies will be on like donkey kong here after turkey day, so for now its all about balancing the good with the oh so very bad.
The impressive amount of good for you stuff in this little stack of happy is worth noting. Olive oil provides a healthy dose of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and inflammation reducing polyphenols. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, and eggplant is an excellent source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1 and B6. Basil provides vitamin A and magnesium, helping the heart and blood vessels to relax. Pine nuts contain protein, iron, and the only natural source of pinolenic acid, which stimulates hormones and decreases your appetite. And come on now, who really needs a health reason to eat mozzarella? If you insist on one, protein and calcium fit the bill. I've now convinced myself that today, I'm dishing up nothing short of health food. Fight off the impending holiday grub overdose with this healthful treat, a gift from my kitchen to yours.
Eggplant Caprese Stacks
1 large eggplant
1 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned (see below)
1 8 oz round of mozzarella
2 large tomatoes
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, adding 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Peel eggplant and cut into roughly 1/3 inch slices. Whisk one egg in a shallow dish, and place breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Season breadcrumbs if desired, with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano (I recommend this). Dip one slice of eggplant in egg and cover both sides. Let excess egg drip off, and dredge eggplant slice in breadcrumbs. Place in heated skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides. Repeat for the remaining eggplant slices, adding a Tbsp of olive oil to the skillet between each batch.
For the pesto, combine washed basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and 3 Tbsp olive oil in a food processor. Blend until a smooth paste is formed, adding additional olive oil as needed.
To form stacks, layer eggplant, tomato and mozzarella in desired arrangement. Add a layer of pesto between two layers, or top stacks with the pesto.
These stacks are filling and full of contrasting tastes and textures. The warm, crisp eggplant plays against the cool creaminess of the mozzarella. As you can see my pesto is a little, shall we say rustic. Making a smaller amount of pesto made my food processor none too excited to chop, so I went with a mortar and pestle and it still tasted great. The pesto oil seeps into the browned eggplant and makes for savory forkfuls of goodness. Happy eating to you and go enjoy some healthy food before the holiday glut closes in.