Baked Mini Eggplants with Cherry Tomatoes
Yes, little is the operative word here! Little eggplants, little tomatoes... what's the big deal, you may ask yourselves? Well, the big deal of course is the flavor! But also, the mini eggplants are just so pretty- it has to be said! So this is a healthier take on the classic "melanzane alla parmigiana"- with no frying involved but with loads and loads of yummy flavor!
Rather than use a tomato sauce, I opted to use cherry tomatoes so that things didn't end up getting too "soupy" during baking... but before I could start baking, I decided to cut some corners and halve my wait, by pre-cooking the eggplants in my little steamer. To do this, I cut away the stems and then sliced the eggplants in half. I seasoned them with salt and allowed them to do their thing for 10-15 minutes, then gave them a quick rinse to remove any bitterness.
I steamed the eggplant for 10-15 minutes, which still left these little beauties with plenty of bite, whilst making sure that they did not soften up too much. Next, I cut 4-5 cherry tomatoes into slices, plucked a good handful of basil, sprinkled everything with pepper and layered everything up in my baking dish. I added a little very finely chopped garlic and then sprinkled everything, one again, with olive oil. Into the oven it went- at a high temperature (around 320°F), covered with foil, for 30-45 mins.
After that time, the eggplant was tender and the tomatoes SO aromatic with all of the aroma of the basil. So the next thing to do, was to sprinkle everything lightly with coarsely ground black pepper and some grated parmesan cheese- and to return it to the oven for 2 3 minutes under the broiler, to become crispy and golden brown- mmmmh!
So that was it! Simple, healthy and different! There is no real need for all of that frying and for the excess oil you sometimes get in an eggplant parmesan... here is all the flavor and half the hard work... what are good things! Good times! And good for you in every possible way!
You could also make an alternative version using a tomato sauce rather than fresh slices- just make sure to steam the eggplant first and you can save on the frying- the oven and the basil will do the rest- this is one of those crown pleaser dishes! So enjoy!