Sound complicated? I promise it’s easy as pie. In fact, it’s easier than pie, which can be quite complicated indeed.
This is a hearty dish inspired by fresh Italian flavor. Zucchini, garlic, oregano and basil? What could go wrong? Add a little bacon to capture the heart of just about everyone, and ta-da! A heartwarming dish that never lasts long in my house.
I suggest using more zucchini than you think you’ll need. Zucchini cooks down quite a bit once it releases its moisture. After it absorbs a bit of the garlicky bacon drippings from the eggplant above, it might just be more popular with your fellow diners than the eggplant itself.
Caramelized Zucchini Ingredients
4-6 large zucchini
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tsp chili flakes
1/8 Tsp nutmeg
1 Tsp sea salt
Stuffed Eggplant Ingredients
4 medium eggplants, halved
8 slices streaky (american style) bacon
1 bunch fresh basil, lightly chopped
6 cloves garlic, thickly chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh black pepper
Heat your oven to 375F.
Start with zucchini so it can cook a little before you slide it into the oven. Thinly slice your zucchini and lightly chop the garlic and oregano. In a heavy bottomed pot with a fitted oven-safe lid, heat the olive oil over a medium high heat.
Once heated, fry your chili flakes to release their natural oils, then toss in the zucchini, nutmeg, garlic and oregano and cover.
Cook for about 20 minutes over a medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning. You want the zucchini to lightly brown, not burn. The moisture from the zucchini should be enough to keep it from burning, but if it starts to burn despite frequent stirring, turn the heat down and add 2 Tbsp of water or white wine.
While your zucchini cooks, slice your eggplants in half, then slice three deep cuts lengthways in the flesh. Try not to break the skin.
Lightly chop the garlic and basil, then cut your bacon slices in half. Gently stuff the eggplant’s middle slice with basil and garlic, then stuff bacon into the sides, bunching it up so you can fit as much as possible.
When your zucchini is done cooking — when it starts to caramelize on the bottom of the pan, stir it, then set the eggplant halves on top of it. Drizzle just a little more olive oil over the tops of the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and black pepper then cover with the lid and slide into the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes the eggplants should have softened while remaining moist. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven when the bacon is lightly browned on top and the eggplant is very soft.
Serve both parts of the dish together with a sprinkle of aged parmesan cheese and a glass of pinot noir. For an easy vegetarian version of this dish, replace the bacon with soft, water-packed mozzarella cheese, mozzarella di bufala if possible. Be sure to drizzle a little more olive oil over the top of the eggplant halves before baking as you’ll be missing the extra moisture the bacon provides.