Caprese salad is a mainstay in Italian restaurants everywhere. Typically it features slices of beefsteak tomato and mozzarella cheese, coupled with slivers of fresh basil. Sometimes there’s a drizzle of olive oil, sometimes, the salad comes with nothing more than a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper. It’s a combination I loved before I went vegan, though part of me always wished for some fresh greens in the dish.
This vegan eggplant caprese salad with lemon pepper Brazil nut cheese is my very unconventional spin on the caprese idea. Instead of thickly sliced tomatoes, it features a combination of cherry tomatoes and thick rounds of grilled eggplant. And in place of mozzarella, I add a deliciously savory lemon pepper brazil nut cheese.
At the height of summer, when heirloom tomatoes are available, I’ll try this salad with those, as well as the eggplant. I look forward to that moment. In the meantime, eggplant is just fine with me. It’s a vegetable I don’t eat enough of, and every time I do, I remember how tasty it is.
I hope you enjoy this fabulous, easy salad. It’s an ideal party appetizer, and it’s the kind of thing one enjoys showing off as a “veganized” spin on a traditional recipe formulation.
Vegan Eggplant Caprese Salad with Lemon Pepper Brazil Nut Cheese
Recipe Type: salad
Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, soy free
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Serves: 4 servings
For the salad:
1 medium sized eggplant
5 heaping cups baby romaine lettuce
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Small handful basil leaves, sliced thin
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Lemon Pepper Brazil Nut Cheese
1 cup brazil nuts, soaked overnight and drained of water
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water (plus extra, as needed)
Prepare the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Place them in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, and allow them to sweat for about 30 minutes. Pat them dry. Brush them lightly with olive oil. Grill in a grill pan for about 5 minutes per side, rotating 90 degrees halfway through each side to create neat grill marks. When they’re tender and crispy at the edges, they’re ready. Alternately, you can transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake them at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
While the eggplant cools, prepare the Brazil nut cheese. Place the nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor (or a high speed blender). Pulse for a minute. Then, with the motor running, drizzle in the water. Continue adding water as needed, one tablespoon at a time, until the cheese has a creamy yet spreadable texture (it should resemble ricotta). Season to taste with extra salt and pepper as needed.
To prepare the salad, cut the eggplant into bite sized wedges. Combine them in a large mixing bowl with all remaining salad ingredients. Dot the top of the salad with the Brazil nut cheese, reserving extra cheese to serve as a dip, in other salads, or with pasta. Serve.
This is a great appetizer, but you can also turn it into a well rounded meal by adding whole grains, legumes, or grilled tofu. It would also be great with some freshly toasted or grilled, crusty whole grain bread.
No matter how you serve it, I hope you’ll give it a try this summer, and that you’ll enjoy it!
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Hi Gena, what are your thoughts on nightshade veggies etc and an autoimmune condition which was diagnosed 6 years ago. I eat a high raw alkaline diet and mine body seems to agree with it so, happy with that! But I do love tomatoes and wonder if it is ok to add these back in my diet, may be once a week or so? I feel no reaction after eating these but I did not dare to enjoy it for years now. Thank you for the great info you are sharing and the level minded advice backed up by science xo
OMG! I just made the Brazilian nut cheese…and it is awesome! I put a tad bit too much water as I would’ve preferred it a little thicker but it is deelish! Thanks again for this recipe…I feel like I’m eating cheese on my salad – didn’t make the caprese salad but figured it’d do on a green salad and it more than just “do”! 😉
This recipe looks really good. I don’t know if I’ll make the nut cheese though as we generally don’t eat a lot of nuts and try to keep things low fat. But I love eggplant and I like roasting it in the oven. The pictures look lovely too.
I agree about the nightshades, I get tired of some people freaking out about them when many populations have used potatoes and tomatoes as staples in their diets with no ill health effects. I certainly have never had a problem eating eggplant or tomatoes either.
Looks totally yummy, Gena! Love how the brazil nut cheese turned out looking like feta. Really yummy combo of flavors.
Brazil nuts are one of the highest sources of selenium, an important mineral which often lacks in a normal Western diet. I make milk out of them quite often, now I’ll be making cheese. Thanks for the idea!
Not only am I looking forward to making this salad, (I, too, used to love, love, love Caprese “salad” and more so when I went to Italy…way before my vegan days), but I’m most anxious to make the Brazil nut cheese. Anyone who knew me pre-vegan knew that cheese was one of my weaknesses, (you can keep chocolate, I’m a good old-fashioned, what I call “real” food lover…lol…), and being vegan, although I don’t miss cheese per se, (except when I walk by the huge cheese section at Whole Foods – but only sometimes…lol), I do find that I’ve been avoiding recipes that call for cheese. I’ve tried commercial almond cheese but I’m avoiding over processed soy so that kind of went by wayside. But I have been inspired by the idea of this Brazil nut cheese! I prefer making things fresh – I spent an arm and a leg and an eye on my Vitamix so I try to make FULL use of it and now I’ve found another way – thanks! 🙂
Also, I wanted to comment that I really enjoyed your thoughts about nightshade vegetables. I’ve done an elimination diet now three times under the supervision of my homeopath and he had suggested I avoid nightshade vegetables. However, I’ve found that when I’ve re-introduced some of them they haven’t affected me at all – thank goodness because I love, love, love tomatoes! So, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The best test for sensitivities is an elimination diet.
Love your site. I look forward to trying out more recipes…off to put some Brazil nuts to soak 🙂
I looove eggplant – I made roasted eggplant dip yesterday. This salad looks fabulous Gena! If you can believe it, I haven’t made eggplant bacon yet! Must try your recipe soon.
Yum, I adore Brazil nuts and can’t wait to try this -thanks! Very interesting on night shades, that’s the first I’ve heard of that, thanks for the info.
Would it be possible to freeze eggplant bacon to store it for later? Anyone know or tried it?
I have to say I am still a HUGE fan of caprese salads, but they’re more of a sporadic indulgence than a regular order of mine. This vegan version, though, sounds like it’ll be more of a mainstay – especially if I can master the brazil nut cheese!
Terrific summary and perspective on the nightshade issue. I’ve been conflicted on this for a long while as I do have some osteoarthritis symptoms, yet am not noticeably sensitive to nightshade vegs. I’ve tried eliminating them and then introducing them in moderate amounts w/no change in symptoms.
Beyond the potential arthritis link, though, now I finally understand the premise for extending this warning to all: “If it’s bad for some, it’s likely bad for all.” As always you are the best, most articulate health educator around! Thank you, dear Gena! 🙂
looks so good! and your brazil nut cheese looks like a block of feta! 😮 so cool!
Beautiful salad! Very impressive. 🙂
I love Caprese salad and way to go on this cheeze. And on the eggplant bacon. Wow, you outdid yourself! I thought you were supposed to be studying 🙂
Hi Gena, I simply love eggplants and the Caprese salad having my favorite, is one fantastic healthy dish I would love to try! Thanks for these healthy recipes…can’t wait to hear more!!!
So funny. As I was enviously reading this recipe and drooling over the eggplant I no longer eat because I avoid nightshades I was thinking about commenting then I got to your discussion at the bottom. I’ve been avoiding nightshade for a while now, for various reasons, and I truly notice the difference (have tried re-introducing on a few occasions with less than awesome results), utterly eliminating heartburn and a few other problems. From an ayurvedic perspective, most nightshades are “hot” foods with “pungent” properties, and people who are already naturally hot in their basic constitution would do better to minimize their intake of hot foods, to balance, and that tends to make a lot of sense for me health-wise right now. I LOVE tomatoes and eggplant but I’m okay not eating them because I feel much better without.
This looks absolutely delicious! Really light and fresh and perfect as the summer months approach. I’m always on the lookout for new nut cheese recipes so I’ll have to give this one a try!
Wow this salad sounds great! Fits my needs right now perfectly! There’s nothing like a grilled eggplant. Did I mention I am obsessed with Brazil nuts right now? I gotta make this cheese. Yum.
I suffer from arthritis and gave the no nightshade thing a try, to be fair, although I didn’t eat that many of them so thought it would be silly for them to be the true source of my pain. So not all arthritis sufferers have this reaction for sure. Although there have been foods in my diet and my spouses that once we’ve eliminated, we’ve realized how much trouble they were giving us. But these are highly individualized. Having multiple health issues and getting to know the communities of people who suffer from those afflictions as well, I am realizing that no one treatment works for all people, one drug or herb can be a huge help to one person but really harm or just not help another person.
You know, I NEVER think to use Brazil nuts — never ever — but I went on a whim at Whole Foods and am not sorry. Very tasty!
Super source of selenium which I’ve heard is ver important and kinda hard to get?
Mmmm! This looks great, Gena. Now – how in the world do you have time to blog/come up with recipes/write lengthy and well-written blog posts while being a post-bacc?? It never ceases to amaze me!
I write fast. And, oh — this is the only thing I do all day that I actually like 🙂
Gena’s own restaurant…Now there’s a venue I would fly from Alaska just to visit!
As well as everything else you said, what I love about this salad is how you show that seasonal flexibility is part of creating food. I get so frustrated at times with people who eat by “names” of dishes, and everything they eat has a special name and may contain only thus and so ingredients. I love that you show it’s completely well and good for “caprese” to feature eggplant.
About to get kicked out of here and down to one bar on the wifi, so I should wrap up. Agree on the food/wellness thing too.
My, oh my! This dish looks so light and fresh… perfect summer cuisine. Love the combination of flavors and textures!
Thanks for the great post!
I find it so interesting (also confussing) how some foods help block and absorb vitamins and nutritents.
Today the health industry makes a new claim about a type of food and after reading something on the internet which is not supported by an expert in that field the claim is exagerated and blown out of proportion.
What confuses me is how so many studies show complete opposite results?
Thank you for another gorgeous recipe! I haven’t tried the nut cheese yet, but I am itching to do so (I just bookmarked your fermented nut cheese recipe – so excited to try it!). I have two questions, if you have a second. The first is about the brazil nuts here – I have some in my fridge I’ve been eating raw, but they’re tasting bitter and dirt-like lately. Did they go “off” and if so, is there anything I can do to redeem them (like roast or something) – I hate to waste expensive ingredients!
Second, off-topic, relates to a general question I have. I know you’re not a doctor, but you always have such well-informed and reasonable opinions that I thought I’d solicit your advice. So often we read in the food-for-health blogosphere about foods for cardiac health and liver health, cancer prevention, and even brain health. But what information is there about the best foods for lung health? Any thoughts on foods for lung health or a resource you could point me to? Thanks! And thanks for always presenting such well-balanced and well-informed perspectives on important topics.
Oh I am so excited to try this dish. I am starting to love nut cheese!
Brazil nuts are awesome (most radioactive food on the planet! YES!). And I agree that the extra greens enhance the dish. No green vegetable is safe around me, and more is better.