Grilled Eggplant (Aubergine) Bruschetta

Eggplant Bruschetta

  • Servings: 2-4 (as appetizer)
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized eggplant/aubergine
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, shredded
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in 1/8’s
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Baguettes or crostini, to serve

Directions

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (~400ºF/205ºC). Poke holes in eggplant skin, using a toothpick or skewer. Place eggplant on grill, and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning every few minutes, until eggplant skin has been blackened and eggplant is soft. Remove eggplant to a strainer and allow to cool and any liquid to drain out while cooling. Add the shredded garlic, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and paprika to a bowl and stir. Once the eggplant has cooled, remove and discard the skin. Cut the eggplant in quarters and place back int the strainer to drain for 5 more minutes. Slice the eggplant into small pieces, and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Stir, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pieces of baguette or crostini.

And now for the details…

Oh the eggplant. Also know as aubergine and brinjal in different parts of the globe, this piece of produce is used in a variety of ways, all over the world. Some of us know this “vegetable” (it is actually technically a berry) as the emoji symbol that represents… not… culinary activities… But despite its phallic representation in more recent media, I have a more romantic view of this produce. Not that kind of romance…

Eggplants have such a variety of possibilities when it comes to cooking. Because they are fairly flavourless, but absorb flavours so well, they have an ability to be incorporated into so many different dishes in many different ways. The can be the star of a dish and be served up, lightly dressed, all on their own, or they can be added into sauces, curries, dips, soups, stir fries, and the list goes on…

The fruit itself has such an unusual look and texture. The skin is such a deep, vibrant, shiny purple, and then by contrast, the flesh is a bright, stark, and matte white. Add in the bright green foliage, and the fruit presents its own, unique colour palette.

While it is beautiful to look at, raw eggplant is a bit unpleasant to consume. It’s astringent, and has a weird, spongy texture. However, once cooked, eggplant loses a lot of the tannin-like taste, and the texture instead becomes soft and silken. We are going to use that to add a different textural “bite” to the bruschetta topping in this recipe.

Let’s get to cooking.

Start by preheating your grill. Set it to medium-high heat, so that the temperature will sit around 400ºF/205ºC.

Before we place the eggplant on the grill, we are going to poke holes through the skin all over the eggplant. This will allow the heat to get into the eggplant a bit more thoroughly, and provide a means for the water trapped inside to escape while the eggplant is cooking. You can use a skewer, toothpick, or even a fork to do this. Try to get a fairly consistent pattern of holes all the way around the eggplant, and they can be spaced about 2cm apart.

We are going to place the eggplant on the grill, and cook it for 15-20 minutes, turning every couple minutes to get the char and cook consistent around the whole fruit. Timing will depend on your grill (and its temperature consistency) and the size of eggplant you are cooking. The goal is for the skin to partially char the entire way around, and for the flesh to have cooked all the way through. How do you tell if it is cooked all the way through? You can make a good assumption that once it has gone from being plump skin and is springy to the touch to shrivelled skin and feels squishy that you have reached your end point. The photo below shows the eggplant when it has first started cooking versus the halfway cooking point. While the skin is shrivelled in the photo on the right, the flesh was still a bit springy when pushed, and so the eggplant was not quite done cooking yet.

Once the eggplant is done, remove from the grill, and place in a wire mesh strainer and allow the liquid to drain from the eggplant as it cools. We are allowing this drainage to happen for a couple reasons, one being that we do not want to bruschetta to have all that liquid… it will turn our bread into a soggy mess. And the second reason is that the liquid has a lot of that astringent/bitter taste, and we want to to drain that off. Now, admittedly, from what I understand, eggplant nowadays are not nearly as bitter as they used to be, and the draining is not as necessary as it once was, but there’s still reason number 1, so just let that sucker drain.

And now you have an… *ahem* flaccid… eggplant… Our next step will be to remove the skin and cut the flesh into little pieces. Thanks to all that cooking, the skin should peel off very easily. Cut the top off, and then peel and discard the skin. Cut the eggplant flesh into four pieces, and place back into the strainer to drain for a few more minutes while you prepare the rest of the bruschetta.

Cut the tomatoes into small pieces. Roma or beefsteak tomatoes can be used instead of cherry tomatoes; I used the cherry tomatoes because they were what I had available. Regardless of what kind of tomato you used, it should be about 1/2-3/4 cup of tomato pieces once they’re all cut up. Place the tomatoes, basil, shredded garlic, smoked paprika, and olive oil into a bowl, and mix well.

Finally, bring the eggplant back to the cutting board, and cut it into small pieces, about 1cm in size. Mix the eggplant in with the other ingredients, and add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, you can either split the topping between the bread or crostini and serve, or you can bring the bowl to the table and allow folks to scoop their preferred amount of topping onto their own bread or crostini. Technically, to be a true bruschetta, the bread should be toasted or grilled in some way, but I got super lazy with this one, and instead I just tore a few pieces of fresh, crispy baguette and in half, and scooped the bruschetta topping right onto the bread pieces and sprinkled with a little Maldon salt. It was delicious.

Happy eating.

Paska (Ukrainian Easter Bread)

Paska (Ukrainian Easter Bread)

  • Servings: 6 loaves
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water, lukewarm
  • 1 package yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 cups scalded milk, lukewarm
  • 5 cups + 8-10 cups flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsps butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 cups raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in water, sprinkle yeast over top and let stand for 10 minutes. Combine bloomed yeast with milk and 5 cups flour. Beat well until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place until light & bubbly (~5 minutes). Add eggs, sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Stir in enough flour to make a dough that is neither too soft or too stiff. Let rise for 60 minutes. Turn on to a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, mixing the raisins into the dough. Place back in bowl and let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in bulk. Divide and shape into loaves. Place in greased loaf pans, let rise for 1 hour until doubles in bulk. Bake 30-45 minutes until golden brown. Serve.

And now for the details…

This recipe is directly out of my grandma’s recipe box. Every year around Easter, she would make multiple loaves, and send several home with each of us. Easter weekend just doesn’t seem quite the same without toasted paska slices, smeared with lots of butter, served with some slices of old cheddar. Seriously, it makes me drool just thinking about it.

What is paska, you may ask? It’s a sweet bread, typical of many Eastern European countries, served on Easter Day, often after is has been blessed at church. Different folks will do different things with the paska dough. And this isn’t even different countries, but different families may have traditions that alter from family to family. Some will braid it or form it into ornaments, and some may add things like custards, sprinkled sugar, seeds, or raisins. For us? There was never any braiding, it was always simple loaves, and it was always with raisins.

Most paskas have their primary ingredients as milk, eggs, flour and butter. Because of the added fat in the dough from the milk, butter and egg yolks, the texture of the bread is fluffier and more “crumby” than a typical white bread, as the fats inhibit the formation of gluten chains. And with the addition of slightly more sugar than a typical bread dough, paska is fairly sweet, but not cake sweet. It is similar in flavour and texture to brioche or challah.

Let get to cooking. I was a bit worried about this batch… because of COVID, apparently lots of people are baking bread right now, and there was zero yeast left at all three stores I either visited or called. The only yeast I had in the house was stuffed at the back of the pantry and had an expiry date of 2016. Yikes. But… it’s all I had, so away we went.

Mix the 1 tsp of sugar into the lukewarm water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast overtop, and let the yeast sit, to allow it to bloom, for about 10 minutes.

While you are waiting for the yeast, scald the milk and let it cool to lukewarm. What does scalding the milk mean? Place it in a pot and heat it up until it just starts to bubble and let off steam (it will get that “milk scum” formation on top). Why scald the milk? I have no idea. I’m venturing to guess that this is recipe that has been passed down a few hands/generations, and scalding the milk was needed because milk was not necessarily pasteurized when this recipe was first created… but… it’s the recipe, so I’m following it as taught by Grandma.

Once the milk has cooled to lukewarm, and the yeast has bloomed, add the milk and yeast mixture to 5 cups of flour. Mix thoroughly.

The dough at this point will be very soft and sticky. Let it rest in a warm place for about 5 minutes, until light and bubbly.

Next, add the beaten eggs, the rest of the sugar, 1/2 cup of melted butter, and salt. Mix thoroughly. The dough will be almost liquidy at this point, more like a batter than a dough.

To get it looking more like a dough, now is when we start to mix the rest of the flour in. Mix it in 1-2 cups at a time, fully mixing the flour into the dough between each additions. After the first few additions, the dough will become too thick to mix with the spoon, start kneading the flour in with your hands at this point. Stir in enough flour to make a dough that is neither too soft or too stiff. It should be a bit tacky, but doesn’t stick to your hands when you pull away.

Cover the dough with a tea towel and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface, and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and satiny (grandma’s word, seriously, it was on the recipe that I copied from her), and knead the raisins into the dough.

Place the dough back into the bowl, cover, and let it rise again for another hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough and shape it into loaves. Place the loaves into greased loaf pans, and let them rise another hour, until they have doubled again.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Once the dough has risen in the pans, brush the tops with the remaining melted butter, and place them into the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the pans to allow them to cool. Or! Even better, cut into the bread while it’s still warm, slather with butter, and enjoy!

Happy eating.

BSTH Sandwich (Bacon, Spinach, Tomato and Honey)

BSTH Sandwich

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 slices bread
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, or 2 small tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsps mayonnaise
  • 8-12 leaves spinach

Directions


Cook bacon in a large pan to desired level of doneness. Set aside and drain most bacon fat. Keep some fat in pan and toast the bread in the pan. Put mayo on two of the slices. Place spinach and tomatoes. Drizzle with honey. Top with other slice of bread. Serve.

And now for the details…

Okay, so yes, this a pretty simple recipe. But… well… it was delicious. And… I have limited resources to work with 😛

We’re into day four of quarantine, and day three of recipe challenge. Today’s recipe is nice and easy. Rather than a BLT, because… well… I had no lettuce… I decided instead to go off-script and go for a BST, since I did have spinach. And then I thought… can I do something even more different? And realized I had some liquid honey in the pantry that would be a great complement the tartness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the bacon.

And so, the BSTH was born!

I don’t know that I would recommend urban dictionary-ing BSTH… it is not the “theme” I am going for here… *eep*

Let’s get to cooking.

To start out, we will be cooking out bacon. Cook in a large pan on medium-high heat, and transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Drain most of the bacon fat from the pan, but leave some. This is what we are going to use to toast our bread. On medium high heat, smear the the bread pieces into the bacon fat so they soak up some of it up, then let them toast on both sides to a nice golden brown.

Remove the bread pieces to plates. Spread the mayo on one piece of the bread. We will use the mayo as glue to stick the spinach in place. Place several of the leaves of spinach on the bread.

Add the bacon, and then place the tomato pieces on top. I did not have regular tomatoes here. Again, quarantine mystery box was my source, and there were only cherry tomatoes available to me. There were a few bigger ones that I sliced to be able to fit the sandwich, and they worked really well, actually, but small to medium tomatoes would probably fit a little better.

To finish this sandwich off, drizzle the liquid honey over your ingredients, and then top with the other slice of bread.

I served this sandwich with some delicious chips that I’d procured from Urban Grub a few weeks ago, before we were travelling, that were delicious with this meal. The flavour I had purchased was “Mmmm, tastes like roast chicken” and they were indeed pretty “Mmmm”-worthy.

Serve your sandwich with your side of choice, or on its own, and enjoy.

Happy eating.