Monday, June 29, 2015
Eggplant: When Burning Your Food is Good
I prefer to call it aubergine, the lilting name that the French use for this member of the nightshade family, but say that to an employee at Whole Foods and you'll have a choice of the only-reserved-for-certain-customers official eye roll or the more traditional shoulder shrug. Botanically classified as a berry, it's a summer favorite of contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food, who believes everything tastes better cooked on his grill.
Burned Eggplant Salad
I'm cooking outside as much as possible during this hot weather, and I try to make sure I have an eggplant on hand when I light the grill. While you can roast eggplant in the oven, you don't get the smoky flavor you get when you burn them over fire. And I rarely build a fire just for burning eggplant; I'm usually cooking something else but want to take advantage of the hot coals.
The technique is simple. Put the whole eggplant over the fire, turn it over periodically and cook it until the skin is charred all over and the eggplant has collapsed. The time will vary depending on the heat of your fire, but it's difficult to overcook (unless you literally burn it up). I've left eggplant on the grill overnight to cook slowly over the dying embers.
When the eggplant is ready, let it cool enough to handle, then cut it lengthwise and remove the skin. Sometimes it just peels off, but you may need to use a spoon or knife to separate the skin from the cooked interior.The cooked eggplant makes great baba ghanoush, but I like to make a modified version of the eggplant salad found throughout the middle east.
Chop the cooked eggplant coarsely, then combine it with chopped tomato, onion (sweet onion if you can find one), cucumber (thin-skinned cukes are best), mint, parsley, red wine vinegar (or lemon juice) and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.