I adore the traditional Italian Caprese salad made with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil but I wanted to create a more elaborate version with grilled eggplant (aubergines for my UK friends) to make it into a more substantial meal. Fried garlic and balsamic vinegar give this salad a real flavour punch, which I love, but of course you can use a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon instead.
Those following the 100% clean paleo protocol can omit the cheese or add a few slices of salami, cooked egg or nut based cheese instead. AIP guys, sorry but this is probably not for you as it contains nightshades (eggplant and tomatoes). If you want to turn this salad into a bigger meal, you can serve it with some grilled steak or chicken or as a the first course at the next dinner party.
Cook’s notes: This recipe is designed as a meal for one person or as a side/starter to share. You can use larger tomatoes such as Roma or round, and simply slice them, but I love using cherry tomatoes because they are usually sweeter. I used buffalo mozzarella, which I think is tastier, but you can use regular mozzarella or bocconcini cheese instead. Aged, thickened balsamic works best as it adds a little sweetness but you can use regular balsamic vinegar or lemon juice instead. There is no need to be precise with this dish, a little less or more of any ingredient will not change the beauty of this salad.
- 1 large eggplant/aubergine, sliced into 0.5cm thick disks
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 5-6 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 7-8 cherry tomatoes, halved (1 large tomatoes can be sliced instead)
- 70-80 grams soft mozzarella cheese (buffalo mozzarella is best), sliced
- 8-10 medium basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
- extra sea salt and pepper to season
- Slice the eggplant and spread the disks on a chopping board or a plate. Sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Leave for 5-10 minutes to draw out some of the juices. This will make the eggplant less oil hungry.
- Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat (not too hot as to not burn the oil too much). Once hot, add the eggplant slices and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until grill marks appear. You will need to drizzle more oil over the slices as they will absorb the oil instantly and they will not cook properly if left too dry. Don't panic too much about the amount of olive oil used, it's all good stuff and not a problem in a lower carbohydrate dish such as this one.
- Once cooked, layer the eggplant on a larger serving plate and set aside.
- Add a little more olive oil to the frying pan and add the garlic slices. Cook over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, until golden brown.
- Top the eggplant slices evenly with mozzarella slices, tomato halves, basil leaves and fried garlic. Drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and season with a little extra sea salt and pepper.
Join the conversation
Have you made a Caprese salad at home before? Would you like to try my version? Perhaps you have your own variation. Tell us below and don’t forget to share with your friends and family.