I never new much about eggplants growing up. The reason, I found out when my parents visited us here in Toronto a while ago and I was doing all the cooking, is that my Dad abhors this beautiful, delicately flavoured fruit and so we never had it in the house. Oh, the disappointment of not being able to make my Iranian Eggplant and lentil stew, flavoured with pomegranate and fresh mint for them during their time here.
It was the colour of the skin which first attracted me to the eggplant a few years ago. That rich, almost black shade of purple, so mysterious and reminiscent of stories of Arabian Nights and Vincent’s Starry Sky. I tried a bunch of things with the Aubergine, fumbling around for a while not knowing what to do with it. Do you eat it raw? Do you put it in a stir fry? Until I got to know it a bit better, did a bit of reading and discovered a few ways of turning it’s slightly rubbery, raw flesh into the creamy, flavoursome meal it can be. I still hold hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll be able to twist me ol’ Dad’s arm and make him change his mind about this yummy food.
1 large, firm eggplant, sliced into 1cm slices
Olive oil for frying
⅓ cup black nicoise, pitted
1½ Tbsp small capers
3 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1½ cups bottles tomato pasta sauce, heated
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Polenta – made as per packet instructions and kept warm
– place slices of eggplant on paper towel and salt. Leave for half an hour to sweat. Dry with paper towel.
– place olives, capers, anchovy, shallot, garlic and thyme in a processor and blitz until finely chopped but not paste. Or chop all ingredients finely by hand and mix. Refrigerate for half and hour to allow flavour to develop.
– fry eggplant in olive oil in batches until lightly browned and tender. Add more oil as needed and drain on paper towel.
– place a serving of polenta on plate. Add a slice of eggplant, top with tomato sauce and repeatto use 3 or 4 slices of eggplant.
– top with about 1½ Tbsp goats cheese. Grill for 6 or 7 minutes under a hot grill, until cheese starts to bubble slightly.
– remove from oven and garnish well with salsa and pinenuts