Eggplant is such an interesting vegetable, although botanically speaking it specifically is a fruit, With deep purple, white or mottled glossy, thick skins and interesting shapes, eggplant is the staple of many vegetarian diets. Eggplants generally grow best in dependable and warm weather, and this season has produced a bumper crop of this delectable member of the nightshade family.
My go-to method for preparing eggplant in early summer is to slice, coat with oil and herbs and grill. As the season progresses and eggplants mature, the skins become bitter. Rather than spend the time peeling the tough, outside skin, roasting becomes my quick and easy cooking technique. Once cooled, the skin peels easily away from the flesh, leaving a dense, delicious, sweet mixture that pairs wonderfully with all sorts of oils, cheeses, nuts, seeds, chopped veggies and vinegars.
The recipe for Thai Basil Roasted Eggplant Spread is adapted from Deborah Madison’s in her book, “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” Unlike Baba Ghanoush, the infamous roasted eggplant puree prepared with garlic and tahini, this spread builds on the sweetness of the fruit and then spices up the flavors with your choice of hot peppers and a fragrant herb, like Thai Basil.
I first served this dish as our main vegetable, warm with hot breadsticks. For an appetizer fare, Thai Basil Roasted Eggplant Spread is great on sliced cucumbers, crackers or corn chips. I like it in a pocket sandwich with lettuce, tomato and onion.
Like many fresh vegetable dishes, this recipe offers lot of room for the creative cook. No basil? Try fragrant mint or rosemary. Add some chopped tomato, olives and feta for a more substantial feast. Go wild and eggplant may just become one of your favorite fruits!
THAI BASIL ROASTED EGGPLANT SPREAD
- 1 pound eggplant any variety
- Olive oil to cover
- 1 tablespoons ½brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2-3 hot peppers finely chopped (jalapenos yield a milder spread)
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil or peanut oil
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely minced Thai basil
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Crackers, veggie slices, croutons for serving
- To roast the eggplant, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the eggplant, coat with oil and season with salt and pepper. Pierce the flesh several times with a fork. Roast until the skin collapses and middle is soft. Let cool.
- Then peel off and discard the skin and save the flesh.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and chopped hot peppers. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or fry pan over high heat and heat the oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the eggplant and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the sauce, cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat. Stir in the chopped basil. Taste and if necessary, add some salt and pepper.
- To serve: Mound the eggplant in a bowl. Garnish the top with fresh herbs. Serve chilled or at room temperature with veggie slices, crackers, pita wedges, chips or croutons.