We heard a description of this recipe on an episode of Good Food a few weeks ago and knew we'd have to try it. Not only did eggplant "caviar" sound like a perfect dinner party appetizer, but it would be a terrific way to use up all the round purple globes we can't seem to resist picking up at the farmers market!
This recipe comes from none other than Amelia Saltsman, author of The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook and one of our favorite food figures:
• Roasted Eggplant Caviar in Basil Leaf from Good Food
No, there's no actual fish caviar in there! In fact, if you follow the recipe, it's entirely vegan. It's roasted eggplant chopped finely and mixed with garlic, parsley, capers, and other seasonings. You spoon a little of the resulting mix into a basil leaf, roll it up, and pop it in your mouth.
There are two things about this recipe that we found really genius. The first is that you cut slits in the thick slices of eggplant before you roast them and insert little slivers of garlic. The eggplant gets infused with garlic flavor as it cooks and the garlic itself cooks without risk of getting burned in the oven. The whole dish ends up infused with a sweet garlic heat.
Second is the idea of wrapping the mix in those basil leaves. Sure, you could just chop the basil up and stir it into the salad along with everything else, but there's something about actually wrapping it in the leaf itself that is just perfect. We love the snap of the tender basil wrapping in our mouth as we bite in, and the taste of pungent licorice followed by the mellow eggplant.
We made just a few changes to the original recipe. We find that eggplant tends to absorb oil very quickly so instead of drizzling the oil directly onto the eggplant, we used a pastry brush to brush oil on both sides. We had also run out of capers, so we substituted a half cup of loosely packed Parmesan cheese to get a similar salty-savory flavor.
If you're serving this for a party, you could pre-wrap the little basil-bites. But we also like the idea of setting a jar of basil stems next to the bowl of eggplant caviar and instructing guests on how to pluck off a leaf and add a scoop of eggplant themselves. This eggplant dish would also be great served with crackers or spread onto bruschetta.
This recipe will definitely be staying in our appetizer rotation. Give it a try!
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)