Is there anything better than having a summer garden?
Nope! There’s absolutely nothing better than that!
Being able to throw together a simple meal filled with sun-warmed and perfectly ripe Tomatoes and eggplant just minutes after harvesting them is one of the most beautiful pleasures life has to offer. Naturally vegetarian, always gluten-free, and always beautifully healthy. It’s just so rewarding! Plus, anything that you can eat raw, like the tomatoes, or simply grill, like the grilled eggplant, is automatically a little more fun, easy, and delicious in the summer.
(Side note: should you have spent the last night having waaay more fun than you should have, being able to eat fresh and intensely healthy food without needing to get dressed and leave the house is maybe also one of the most rewarding parts of having a backyard full of produce…)
It’s just so incredible to be able to just wander out into the backyard and harvest nearly everything that you need for a vibrantly healthy lunch filled with incredible flavor. Heading into the house with armfuls of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and fresh herbs without having to head to the store and drop a bunch of money is absolutely unbeatable. Eating everything raw or simply prepared, like quickly blistered peppers, charred tomatoes, or this grilled eggplant, is absolute perfection.
Just try it and see if I'm wrong!
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We have so many incredibly productive plants in the backyard right now, including multiple types of tomatoes, four different types of peppers, two types of eggplants, beautifully productive beans, and more. We even still have a few lemons on our little tree!
Not every climate will allow you to grow the variety of produce that thrives here, but if you have any space at all, gardening is an amazingly rewarding investment. Food that’s perfectly ripe and still warm from the sun and hasn’t had any weird chemicals sprayed on it or spent a minute traveling around in the back of a truck is a relatively simple pleasure that everyone should at least try to have access to.
Even if you have something as simple as a pot of herbs on your windowsill, eating produce that was just picked seconds ago is a simple way to improve your meals, enhance your health and well-being, and experience the best flavors that life has to offer.
Just try it and see if I’m wrong!
Today’s recipe for grilled eggplant with tomatoes, basil, feta, and peppers is completely vegetarian (vegan without the feta!), gluten-free, and packed with flavor. Bright from the lemon juice, deep from the balsamic vinegar, salty with feta, and so fresh with just a little kick, it’s a simple salad that can easily double as an entire meal.
Because my shishito peppers are so productive right now, I wound up using one in this recipe (it was perfect!), but you could easily substitute a thai pepper, serrano, or jalapeño. If you want to reduce the heat, make sure to remove the seeds and veins before you add it to the salad.
I used Sungold, Green Zebra, and Early Girl tomatoes for the salad on top of the grilled eggplant, but every variety of tomatoes is a great choice, as long as you’re using varieties that you know you like to eat raw. A lot of people prefer Roma tomatoes cooked, but if you like them raw, that’s a perfect choice! Also, there are both green and opal basil in the picture, but you could easily use whatever type you have access to. The flavors will be amazing no matter what!
The balsamic vinegar reduction is super simple, as long as you keep an eye on it and don’t let it reduce too far or burn. However, it is something you can easily buy if you don’t want to make it! Amazon has a number of varieties of balsamic reduction available. Feel like a bigger splurge? A drizzle of Saba dressing is one of my favorite things ever!
Vibrantly Healthy Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil
- 4 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp water
- 1 large or 2-3 small eggplants, sliced
- 3-4 tomatoes, diced (a variety of heirloom tomatoes work really well here)
- ½ bunch basil, leaves picked and torn or shredded if large
- 1 Shishito pepper, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs + 1 Tbs olive oil
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- salt, pepper
- Combine the ingredients in a small pan. Heat to simmering and reduce until thick and syrupy.
- Generously salt the eggplant slices and let sit in a colander for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
- Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and place on the grill. Allow to cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes. Rotate and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Flip, and do the same on the other side. Remove from heat.
- Place the garlic in a small bowl and add lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, black pepper, tomatoes, chili slices, and toss well. Just before serving, add the basil, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice.
- Place the eggplant on a plate, cover with the tomato mixture, top with feta, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Dig in and enjoy!
Looking for more healthy summer recipes? Check out:
Cod with Red Pepper and Summer Vegetables
Absolute Umami Corn on the Cob
Chicken Tacos with Homemade Tortillas and Mango-Cucumber Salsa
Super Simple and Non-Traditional Vegetarian Mushroom Tamales
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