I believe that eggplant is an under-utilized pizza topping. There are posts in this forum that mention eggplant - and how good it is, but I couldn't find one that discusses how to utilize eggplant and more importantly, how to coax out it's wonderful flavor.
I'm trying to branch out from two comfortable pizza ruts: One is the very narrow range of permissible ingredients in Pizza Napoletana, and the other is the somewhat trite roster of "American" pizza toppings - pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, etc. I love these, but I want to think of new combinations of traditional Italian ingredients that will make truly delicous pies that taste traditional and don't taste like they were made by a hippie named Chet with dreadlocks and a tounge stud.
I have been using eggplant in spaghetti sauce for a few years. It adds a wonderful background note to the flavor of the sauce that mixes VERY well with the pork fat/garlic/tomato flavors. For every 3 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, I add one eggplant - slightly smaller than a football. I peel it with a veggie peeler, puree it, and saute it along with the garlic, onion, and pork ribs. When it's soft, I add the crushed tomatoes. Because it has a LOT of water, I need to add a 12-oz can of tomato paste to maintain the consistency.
Back to Pizza:
The challenge to eggplant is that it is a VERY watery vegetable. You need to remove the water before putting it on a pizza. Here's what I do (and maybe you, too): Peel it with a veggie peeler. Slice it lengthwise into 3/8" thick slices. Coat them liberally with salt, then stand them up in a colander over a plate. About 30 minutes later, you will have a brown puddle in the plate. The slices are no longer firm, but limp and flaccid. The salt has drawn out the water.
Rinse them well - quickly! - to remove all the salt. Then layer them in paper towels for a little while to soak up the remaining water.
The eggplant is still NOT pizza-worthy. You need to par-cook it. The last time I used eggplant, I grilled them. I fired up the Weber real hot. Brushed them liberally with olive oil, greased up the grate and grilled them about 5 minutes per side.
Here again, there is a challenge: Eggplant is like a sponge. It soaks up the oil (It presents many of the same challenges as do fresh mushrooms). So you don't want to over-do it. The trick is to not burn them. Cook them until they are nice and soft. It's difficult to over cook them (but don't burn them - thin slices will turn black, and that's not Good Eats) because the softer they are, the more they melt in your mouth.
Once they are done, let them cool, covered, and steam in their own heat. When they are cool, cut them into thin strips and put them on your pizza.
If you've done it right, you'll have soft, very flavorful eggplant lending a distinct earthy note to your pizza. It may ooze a little olive oil, but no water on your pizza. You should taste it, but not necessarily feel it.
I made a pizza with grilled eggplant, anchovies, and Stella Whole Milk Motz (no tomato sauce) and it was a showstopper. Tonight, I used some of the leftover eggplant in an omelette with bell peppers, asparagus, and Stella Motz (note to self: leftover pizza toppings are excellent for omelettes the next day!).
Please comment - do you know a better way to use eggplant in pizza?
P.S. I didn't realize this until just now, but what I've described sounds a LOT like Caponata. Has anyone put caponata on a pizza?