Insalata Caprese is a traditional Italian antipasta with endless room for variation. The usual emphasis on pasta and grains can make finding naturally gluten-free Italian dishes a challenge, but I’ve found the best way to start is to go straight to the garden. Utilizing vegetables and putting them at the forefront of the meal can only heighten any protein you wish to serve. This stacked version is made heartier, but not heavier, by the eggplant which makes it just as great a side as an appetizer. A fruity, medium-bodied white wine pairs delightfully with this dish and brings you’re your palate straight to the days summer.
2 large eggplants
1 red bell pepper
2 medium tomatoes
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes cut in strips
10-12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon pepper
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Slice eggplant into ½-inch thick medallions. Place the eight largest slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry. Refrigerate the remaining eggplant.
While eggplants are resting, slice pepper in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs. Cut in half-inch strips and roast until skins are black and blistered, about 20 minutes. Place roasted peppers in a paper bag to cool. After peppers have cooled, remove charred skins.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add eggplant slices a few at a time, do not crowd slices. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until they begin to brown. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with pepper, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt while eggplant is still hot.
Slice tomatoes and mozzarella in sizes similar to the eggplant. Sprinkle tomatoes with remaining salt.
To assemble, arrange a tomato for the base and follow with a slice of eggplant, mozzarella, pepper strips, and a few slices of sundried tomatoes. Repeat and drizzle completed caprese with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with a basil leaf.