One of my favorite preparations of the most popular summer veggies (including: cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant) is to remove some of the moisture by salting them. Salt seems to be a fear for many people. It is one of the many unfortunate consequences of our wacky food system. Salt is not only essential to give pretty much any ingredient flavor, but it is an amazing tool.
First, salt is fine. Since many people are used to processed foods, convenience foods, and fast foods...salt has become this evil thing to avoid. If you grew up eating packaged foods, you definitely didn't need to add salt to anything you were cooking. When I would microwave my Hungry Man, I never pulled out the salt shaker to perfect the seasoning. As a result, when cooking real food, I have talked to countless people who either skip the salt completely, or they feel very uncomfortable adding salt to their food. Or they cringe watching me or someone else season a dish with salt. The consequence of this fear of salt? People think they hate "fill in the blank" ingredient. Common culprits: mushrooms, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, beans, beets, squash, eggplant, and probably most veggies.
Now, there are lots of reasons people might not like a certain ingredient. Most likely it is because the time they tried it, it was cooked poorly. And it is very likely it wasn't seasoned properly. Other options: it wasn't in season, wasn't ripe, was mass produced and had no flavor, etc. There is a small chance your palette isn't ready for that flavor yet. Like why we don't feed babies bitter dark greens as their very first solid food. It is hard to know exactly the reason why you might not like a particular ingredient, which is why you should always give ingredients a second chance (what I mean by that is..a 20th chance).
With the majority of veggies, whole grains, beans...you know all the healthy stuff...you need to season them. With some salt. If I were to answer the question, is salt good for me? My answer would be "yes!" Aside from all the fancy nutritional explanations of why we need salt...sodium blah blah, electrolytes ya ok. My reasoning is: it makes healthy food taste good. Take a bitter vegetable of your choice: kale, swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, whatever. Roast it with and without salt. Which one are you most likely going to go through the trouble of preparing and eating again? The salted one! More info on salt here. The CDC, FDA, WHO all have articles on SODIUM. Don't read those. They assume you eat Hohos and McDonalds everyday.
Sorry. I have watched two documentaries in the past two days on food. One made me cry. Like happy cry, but still. Ok, I will tell you what made me cry: "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead". Phil stole my heart.
Back to this pizza. What a perfect summer meal. I made Pioneer Women's Tomato and Eggplant Pizza a few years ago. That was my first time putting eggplant on pizza. This recipe is very similar, but adapted for the middle of the summer. A few summers ago I also posted on how to grill pizza.
I have made this twice in the past two weeks. It is my favorite thing right now. The toppings pair really well with the grilled, charred-ness of the pizza.
Eggplant and Tomato Grilled Pizza
1 Japanese eggplant
1 bunch of kale, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped
half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 whole wheat pizza dough (room temp, mine is from a Brooklyn pizza restaurant)
fresh mozzarella (1 ball), thinly sliced
parmesan cheese, grated
Slice the eggplant to make 1/8th of an inch thick rounds. Place in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Mix to evenly coat the eggplant with the salt. Let sit for at least 30 minute (up to an hour or so) in the sink to release the water out of the eggplant.
In the meantime, prep the pizza toppings. In a skillet, sauté the kale in some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. You can do all of this on the grill or inside on the stove. Next, lay the eggplant out on a kitchen towel. Pat dry (a lot of the salt should come off too). In a hot pan with olive oil or on the grill, sauté/grill each piece of eggplant until golden brown on each side. Do not season. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same skillet over medium high heat, add some olive oil and sauté the halved cherry tomatoes until soften and slightly charred. Remove from pan and set aside.
Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Divide the dough in half. You will want to make two small pizzas, instead of one large one. It is much easier to deal with small pizzas when grilling. I like to roll the dough out on parchment paper. Once the dough is rolled out, I pre cook it on the grill before topping it. Place the dough on the grill with the parchment paper still attached to the top. Then, peel the parchment paper off. Cook for a few minutes until dough is not raw. Flip and cook the other side a few minutes. Remove from the grill, place on a plate or cutting board. Turn heat down to medium low.
Top the pizzas (everything is divided evenly among the two pizzas). First, layer on the sliced mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with minced garlic. Top with kale, eggplant, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with grated parmesan. Place back on the grill and cook for 5-10 more minutes until cheese is melty and crust is crispy. Watch the bottom of the crust, you don’t want to burn it!!!
(Servings: 3-4, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)
Shanon (taste): 10/10
Scot (taste): 9/10
Dishwashing Effort: 2/5