It's tough getting back into the cook-whatever-you-want mode after our Eat on $30 challenge last week. When we went to do our shopping for the week (which included getting provisions for our fund-raising party we had Sunday), it was hard to focus and just shop. Everything I bought I looked at the price of it. I found myself putting things back because they were "too expensive" even though I didn't have to.
One of my tactics during the challenge last week was to buy produce that was "on sale" at our farmers market. This usually means its wrapped in a plastic baggy and marked with a discount sticker. You don't have as many days to use it before it goes bad but it's still in good condition at time of sale. I was wandering up and down the aisles and saw some eggplant marked 20% off. I said what the hell and threw it in the cart.
Eggplant is a veggie I don't cook with very often. It's one of those things I'll eat if prepared for me but I don't buy it often. I've made caponata and spreads like babaghanoush before but that's the extent of it. I also find that it takes a lot of work and/or some heavy spices to make eggplant TASTE like something. When I ran across Hubert Keller's recipe for eggplant caviar, it seemed like a light recipe that still managed to pack a flavor punch.
My version is based on this recipe but editorialized to use what I had on hand. I used it as a guide for prepping the eggplant and for the addition of basil and chives stirred in at the end. In true thrifty form, I used some roasted red peppers, green onion and garlic left from my party supplies. My parsley is thriving again so I threw some of that in there at the end with the basil and chives. It's a delicious, flavorful and – to my surprise – not unattractive as many mushed eggplant things can be. Served with some warm pita or spread on toasted baguette and it's divine – it would also be a good base for a Mediterranean panini or sandwich.
Herby Eggplant Caviar – loosely based on this recipe at Food and Wine – serves 4 as a light app
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Drizzle cut sides of eggplant halves with 1 tbsp. olive oil and place them face down on a cookie sheet. Roast for about one hour or until the outside skin gets puckery and tender. Allow them to cool completely.
- Heat remaining tbsp. of olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add chopped green onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add garlic and continue to cook for 1-2 more minutes – you want the garlic cooked, not brown. Add in chopped roasted red pepper and continue to saute. With a spoon, scoop out the cooked flesh of the eggplant halves and add to pan. You can break it up as it heats with your spatula or a wooden spoon. You don't want it smooth but you don't want enormous chunks, either.
- Heat the mixture through until soft but not mushy – 4 to 5 minutes. Put mixture in mixing bowl and add lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, chives, and basil. Taste and then add salt and pepper to your liking. Place in covered container to chill slightly – I would say 30 minutes to overnight. If you store this mixture overnight, allow to come up to just below room temperature. Serve with toasted bread or pita points.