Ally

I'll be honest, I've never been a huge fan of eggplant. Although the deep royal purple has always captivated me, I've usually found it to be a rather bland vegetable. The only eggplant that had ever peaked my interest up until recently was a strange (now defunct) Japanese reality TV show called "Nasubi" (the Japanese word for eggplant). If you've never heard about it, check out the link...it preceded the United States' "Survivor" series. All I'll say is...it involved a naked guy, an empty room and several contests.

Anyhow, being a fan of David Lebovitz' recipes I thought I'd give his eggplant caviar a try. Surprisingly, this variation on baba ganoush is quite flavorful. Mr. S thought the puree to be a tad spicy but I found it to be a nice change from your typical tamer spreads like hummus and guacamole. I opted to sprinkle a little bit (ok, a lot) of sumac on mine which gave it a nice tangy finish.

Eggplant Caviar  (adapted from David Lebovitz' recipe)
Make about six servings

[If you don't own a grill, just oven-roasting the eggplant for a longer period of time, until they're soft and wilty.]

3 small Japanse eggplants
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for preparing the pan
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

- Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

- Poke each eggplant a few times and place them over a gas flame on the stovetop or a grill, turning them every so often, until they get a nice char on the outside and feel soft and wilty. Roast them for five to ten minutes.

- When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and place them cut side down on the oiled baking sheet.

- Bake the eggplants until the flesh is thoroughly cooked, which should take about twenty minutes.

- Remove the eggplants from oven and scrape the pulp from the skins into the bowl of a food processor.
- Add the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and chili pepper powder.

- Pulse the food processor a few times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the basil and pulse a few more times.

-Taste, and add additional salt, lemon, or other seasonings, as desired.

- To serve, spoon into a bowl and make a small hole in the center. Pour a bit of olive oil in the middle and sprinkle with chili powder, sumac, or some chopped fresh herbs.

- Serve with some pita triangles.

- Eggplant caviar can be kept refrigerated for up to five days.
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