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.

Southwest Black Bean “Hummus”

Southwest Black Bean Hummus

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: very easy
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Ingredients

  • 500ml/14 oz canned black beans
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped loosely
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, loosely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-4 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions


Drain and rinse beans. Place beans, garlic, cilantro, cumin and lime juice in food processor. Blend until a loose mix has formed. Add olive oil and salt, and blend for several minutes or until smooth. Serve with veggies, pitas, or taco chips.

And now for the details…

Hummus enthusiasts may be horrified at the name used for the non-chickpea concoction that is this recipe… I mean, can it truly be called hummus when it contains no chickpeas? Well, probably not, technically, since according to my interweb searching, the English translation for the word hummus is… chickpeas. Ha! Whoops.

But.. don’t hate me… I’m not the biggest fan of chickpeas. They have a slightly grainy texture, even when mushed down into hummus, and that’s just not my cup of tea. Using black beans instead of chickpeas results in a different texture; I find the texture is silkier, smoother. And since we’re going so far off-base with the main ingredient of this hummus, we’re going to go even further by changing the flavour profile by adding in some southwestern tastes.

To get started, drain and rinse the beans under some cold water, then add them to your food processor or blender. Don’t have a food processor or blender to use? There are options: you could use a potato masher, or a mortar/pestle, but if you are going to go with a manual version, finely chop both the cilantro and garlic before you add them.

Next, add the rest of the ingredients to the blender/food processor. Only add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to start, we’ll reserve the rest of the oil in case the mix is a little too dry and need more liquid to blend properly.

Give the blender a couple pulses to start breaking up the beans and to get a little mixing action happening. Then, open the food processor/blender up, scrape down anything that’s collected at the top, back into the mix, and repeat until you stop getting loose bits fling up to the top of the food processor/blender.

Once the loose bits are back in the mix, blend the hell out of it until you get a nice, smooth texture. I blended mine for about five minutes straight. You could do more or less, depending on what kind of texture you want out of the hummus once it’s done. Now is also the time we will check in to determine if more oil is needed. If you do try to blend this, and it’s not quite “sticking” or become dip-like, you probably need a tad more oil to blend and bind everything together.

Once you’ve blended it down to your dip texture of choice, scrape out of the food processor/blender and serve! Anything you want to save for later keeps quite well in a sealed food storage container in the fridge for about a week.

For serving, you could go the healthy route and serve it with veggies, but my favourite thing to eat it with is taco chips!!!

Happy eating.

Salmon and Tuna Poke Bowl

Poke Bowl Recipe

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup sushi rice
  • 2-4 oz/60-110g tuna, sushi grade
  • 2-4 oz/60-110g salmon, sushi grade
  • 2 Tbsps + 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsps + 2 tsp + 1/2 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsps sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp chili oil or hot sauce
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice (approximately 1/8 lemon)
  • 3 mini English cucumbers, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped Savoy cabbage
  • 2 Tbsps fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp pickled ginger
  • 1/2 sheet roasted nori, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  • 1/2 c. edamame beans
  • salt, to taste

Directions

Cook the sushi rice according to package instructions. Once cooked, sprinkle 1-2 Tbsps rice wine vinegar, mixing in and fanning the rice to cool. Once cool, place in two serving bowls. Keeping them separate, cut tuna and salmon into small pieces, approximately 1cm/1/2″. Mix wasabi and 1 teaspoon soy in a small mixing dish, then toss tuna pieces in this mix, placing immediately onto rice in bowls, allowing excess soy to fall back into small dish. Discard excess soy. In a small mixing dish, mix 1/2 tsp chilli oil or hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar and lemon juice, then toss the salmon in this mix, sprinkling with a pinch of salt. Place salmon onto rice. Arrange the rest of the ingredients around the fish on the rice: cabbage, cucumbers, ginger, nori, edamame, cilantro. Whisk together 2 tablespoons soy, 2 teaspoons vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp chilli oil or hot sauce. Drizzle the bowls with the dressing. Serve.

And now for the details…

When I’ve got a protein craving (yes, I get cravings for protein… I am a bit of a protein-aholic), the protein I want most is raw tuna. And so when I was shopping yesterday and walked past the sushi section and saw a dish of tuna and salmon sashimi, I grabbed it, drooling a little, thinking what a delicious treat it would be once I got home. I ended up getting home closer to dinner time, though, and decided to turn the sashimi into the full meal deal, and make a poke bowl.

Poke bowl restaurants exploded in the 2010’s, and you can often find them all over the place. But admittedly, the bowls we get there and what I have created here is not super accurate to its origins. Poke originates from Hawaii, where you can find it everywhere, from poke shops to grocery stores to gas stations. But you won’t usually see the big, colourful bowls, permeated with vegetables and avocados. More frequently, the poke is dished out on its own, or onto rice, in to-go containers and served up with minimal accoutrements. And to be honest, it doesn’t need the accoutrements. Most of the poke we had in Hawaii is so delicious in its own right, it doesn’t need a bunch of stuff to go with it. Knocking my own bowl a little bit? I guess so. The additions I’ve put in do complement the poke, but they are added more to create a balanced meal, rather than be true to origin.

With that, let’s make that bowl!

Start out by cooking the rice. I have used sushi rice, but you could use any rice that suits your fancy. I’ve seen poke restaurants use brown rice, quinoa, or even cauliflower rice. Whichever you are using, follow the package directions to cook the rice. If you are using sushi rice, once it is cooked, sprinkle the rice with 1-2 tablespoons of the rice wine vinegar, carefully stirring the vinegar in, being careful to not break the rice apart. Place the rice in two serving bowls, spreading it so it covers the bottom of the bowl.

Next, we prepare the fish. We are going to use different marinades for each fish, so keep them separate. Cut the fish into small pieces, about 1cm in size. Putting the fish into the freezer for a couple minutes will help make them easier to cut.

First, the tuna: whisk together the wasabi paste and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Add the tuna pieces, and toss until the tuna pieces are covered. Transfer immediately onto the rice bowl.

Next, the salmon: whisk 1/2 teaspoon chilli oil or hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, and the lemon juice. Add the salmon pieces and toss to coat. Add a dash of salt to taste, then place the salmon next to the tuna on the rice bowl.

Place the cucumber, cabbage and cilantro around the fish.

Next, whisk the 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp chilli oil or hot sauce with a fork until well blended. Sprinkle the dressing over the bowls, getting it over the veggies and rice. Finally, place the edamame, ginger and nori, then serve!

(No pickled ginger in the house? No problem, neither did I! This recipe from the New York Times is a super fast, super easy way to put pickled ginger together, with only an hour resting time!)

Happy eating.