№ 74 - Grilled Eggplant Puree
Like tofu or chicken, mildly flavored eggplants present an almost blank slate to cooks. Most successful recipes call for the addition of bold flavors. Tahini, tomatoes, garlic or ginger are favorites. In this puree from the fantastic Beetlebung Farm Cookbook, Chris Fischer employs smoke and a bit of vinegar to create a delicious tang, reminiscent of barbeque, but more delicate and respectful of the eggplant. It has a luxurious, silky smooth texture too, which makes it an elegant companion for grilled or roasted meats, white fish or crusty bread (think crostini). It's my new favorite way to cook eggplant.
Grill the (whole) eggplants on a gas grill, under a broiler, right on your stove top's gas burner, or, my favorite, on a charcoal grill. Charring the eggplant's skin requires more heat than for grilling almost anything else. Exactly how much depends on the size of the eggplants. Since it's impractical to peel very small eggplants such as fairytales, I cook them a bit slower to avoid charring them completely before they're done. On charcoal, I start grilling medium and large eggplants about 10 minutes after lighting the fire, when the charcoal has stopped smoking but there's still plenty of open flame. They'll be done by the time you want to grill anything else. I throw on smaller eggplants (and most other things) when the charcoal is lined with some white ash.
Grill the eggplants on one side for about 3 minutes, or 5 minutes for large ones. Turn them over and grill for another 3-5 minutes. Char the remaining two sides for 2-3 minutes each until the inside is soft and yields when poked gently with the grill tongs.
Take the eggplants off the grill and cut off the stems. I like to remove most of the charred skin too but you could keep some or all for a darker, smokier flavor. Mince the garlic finely and place it in a blender or food processor with the eggplant and 2 Tbsp each of olive oil and vegetable oil. Blend until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and stir in 4 more Tbsp of vegetable oil to achieve a silky texture. Serve warm immediately or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.