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.

Savoury Steak Bites with Sriracha Mayonnaise

Savoury Steak Bites

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 200-250g (7-9oz) beef tenderloin steak, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 2 Tbsps chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsps mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha (alternatives: hot sauce, masala chilli, or similar)

Directions

Mix the spices and cornstarch together. Toss the steak pieces in the powder mixture until fully coated. Heat the oil in medium-high heat pan until hot, add the steak bites. Turn regularly until desired level of doneness and outsides are browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Mix together the hot sauce and mayonnaise. Serve the steak bites with the hot mayonnaise.

And now for the details…

I must admit, I do not think I could become a vegetarian. Meat is just too delicious. I joke around that I am a protein-aholic. And yes, I realize I can find protein sources outside of meats and fish, but when really craving a filling, umami-rich, toothy bite, what could provide this better than a bite of savoury steak? The outside crisp, salty and spicy, the inside soft and juicy. I’m salivating just typing about it, and it’s 8am on a Saturday morning…

These steak bites come together quite quickly, and are great for either entertaining, or as a quick meat option for your evening meal. The best part is that because they are already cut down into smaller bites, they seem to go a longer way. With some veggies on the side, one steak was more than enough for both me and the hubby for dinner, which is usually our largest meal of the day.

To get started, let’s cut the steak into bite-sized chunks, about 1 to 2″ big. Mix all the spices and cornstarch together. I do this in a ziplock bag, in preparation of the next step. Next, add your precut steak pieces into the bag, close it up, and shake until all the steak bites are evenly coated with the powder mixture.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Wait until the oil has gotten hot enough. You can test this by adding a couple of drops of water to the pan. When the water pops, the pan is ready for you steak bites. Add them to the pan in one layer, leaving a bit of spacing between the pieces. We are doing this so that we get a nice crispy outside on the bites, otherwise, they may start to steam instead, leaving us with a soggy, moist (yeah, I said it) outside. Turn the pieces regularly, until the insides are to your desired level of doneness (here is a handy guide for the temperatures to aim for), and the outsides are looking crisp and browned.

Remove the bites from the pan and let them sit to the side for a moment or two.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and sriracha (or hot sauce of choice) until fully mixed. Serve the steak bites with the spicy mayonnaise for dipping.

Happy eating.