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.

Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad (with Vegetarian Option)

Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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A Caesar salad using brussel sprouts. Ingredients marked as optional if you are making this a vegetarian recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (approximately) brussel sprouts, sliced thinly
  • 3 garlic cloves, shredded
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)
  • 4 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1/3 cup parmesan, grated
  • 3 slices of prosciutto (optional)
  • (if have omitted anchovy paste and Worcestershire: 1 tsp capers, with brine, smashed into paste)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsps parmesan flakes, for garnish

Directions

Slice the brussel sprouts thinly with a mandolin or sharp knife. Either in a blender, or a bowl with a whisk, mix the shredded garlic, anchovy paste, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, and lemon juice (and capers, if you’re going vegetarian). Whisk/blend until fully mixed, then slowly add the olive oil, mixing well as you add. Finally, mix in the parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss the sprouts with the dressing and set aside for 5-15 minutes. On a grill set to 350ºF/175ºC, or on a pan set to medium heat, cook the prosciutto pieces for approximately 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, let cool, then cut into small pieces. Add the prosciutto to the salad and toss. Top with parmesan flakes and fresh ground pepper. Serve.

And now for the details…

In my last post, we had a juicy burger… this post is the accompaniment to that burger. What goes really well with burgers? Coleslaw. But I didn’t feel like coleslaw at the time, and I had brussel sprouts that needed to be used, so instead, the brussel sprout Caesar was born!

The texture in this salad is more similar to coleslaw, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite keep as one, as we unfortunately found out. The next day, the brussel sprouts had that limp, almost soggy texture that lettuce gets when it’s sat in salad dressing for too long. Not my favourite. So eat this salad on the same day to avoid that!

We start out with prepping the brussel sprouts. Mine were a little forlorn by the time I pulled them out of the fridge to use, so I needed to trim the ends and remove some of the exterior leaves that had gone a bit yellow. I used a sharp knife to get the brussels nice and thin. If you have one, you could use a mandolin. There’s always the option to use a food processor too, but I find the slice on those is much thicker, and not the texture I was going for.

Next we make the salad dressing. Mix the anchovy paste, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, lemon juice and garlic cloves. If you’re making this salad vegetarian, skip the anchovy paste and Worcestershire, and instead add 1 teaspoon of capers with some of the brine, mashed into a paste. Whisk all the ingredients together until fully mixed. Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients to a blender and blend them together.

Once the ingredients have been well mixed, start slowly adding the olive oil, whisking constantly, to allow the dressing to become a homogeneous mix. The mustard acts as an emulsifier here, so it will help to ensure that the oil doesn’t start separating from the rest of the ingredients once the dressing sits.

Finally, we add the shredded parmesan cheese. If you ware whisking, give this a pretty vigorous mix to help break apart the parmesan a bit to get a slightly creamier texture to the dressing.

Wait until you have mixed in the cheese to add your salt and pepper, since the cheese, anchovy paste, and Worcestershire (or capers) are quite salty, so we want to wait until now to do a taste test, then add salt and pepper to your taste preferences, mixing well. Then, we add the dressing to the brussel sprouts.

Mix thoroughly, then set aside for 5-15 minutes to give the brussels some “soak time” in the dressing. While we are waiting, we can cook the prosciutto (obviously you’re going to skip this step if you’re going vegetarian). I cooked the prosciutto on the grill at medium heat (~350ºF/175ºC), since it was already going to cook the burgers, but you can use a pan on the stove heated to medium heat, and cook the prosciutto for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat, then let the pieces cool, and cut them into small, bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them and the parmesan flakes over the salad.

Give the salad one last toss, top with some more fresh ground pepper, then serve.

Happy eating.