Dear Miss Ginsu,
This week the farm share delivered a bunch of eggplants. I have not really done much with them before, so I ask your advice. Other than tossing some sauteed eggplant into a bean salad (not that there's anything wrong with that), what other tips do you have?
— Desperately Seeking Produce Advice
Just about anything is tasty when it's brushed with olive oil and grilled...
A ratatouille is a classic use (or stuff hollowed-out shells with ratatouille and bake 'em) and there's always the classic eggplant parm.
Lil Frankie's in the East Village serves eggplant halved, roasted and topped with a zippy chili oil, but I think you'd have to have their wood-fired oven to make it taste that rich and smoky. I've tried it in my oven, and it's just not the same. But eggplant does love the grill. There's something about the smoke that really compliments the flavor.
I usually go Middle Eastern with eggplant (either roasted with olive oil and za'atar spice or in a baba ganoush) and serve it alongside cucumber/tomato/feta salad, hummus and spicy lamb balls.
1 large eggplant
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp tahini
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Chopped parsley and/or mint (optional, for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 450F. Poke the eggplant several times with a fork (to create steam-escape routes) and place on a baking sheet.
2. Bake until it is soft, about 20-30 minutes, or you can grill the eggplant (it's okay for it to char) about 10-15 minutes.
3. Allow the eggplant to cool before cutting in half, draining off any excess juice and scooping its flesh into a food processor/blender.
4. Blend eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and salt until smooth. Season to taste with a little more lemon juice, olive oil or salt, as you like. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped parsley and/or mint and serve with pita.
If you dig the heat, I find baba ganoush is pretty great with a little Aleppo pepper added in or sprinkled across the top. I know they sell it at Penzeys (along with za'atar), either online or in shops... there's one at the market at Grand Central Station here in New York.