If you run an internet search for “types of eggplant”, you’ll come up with some astonishing pictures of eggplants ranging from ivory to almost black and small round ones to long and slender ones nearly a foot in length. Along the way you are sure to find one that you enjoy. They vary in flavor from bitter to quite mild but one thing that I have always been told was they didn’t freeze well. Totally a myth.
Eggplant is wonderful during the growing season. Cooked properly the texture says firm and a variety like Rosa has fairly thin skin which is not bitter. That also means you can’t handle it roughly and it doesn’t hold long. So you need to use it as soon as you get it and you don’t need to do all of the skinning and salting that’s required with some other varieties with thicker skins.
This year I decided to test freezing this pretty little vegetable. I sliced my rosa eggplant about 1/2″ think and lightly brushed it with olive oil on both sides and roasted it until it was tender on a heavy-duty cooking sheet. (7-10 minutes first side and 5-7 minutes second side) Then I stacked up the slices and froze them for about four months. What came out of the freezer was no worse looking than what went in. I think we can agree that cooked eggplant is not a thing of beauty. The slices remained firm and if you wanted to use them that way, they would certainly hold up in a casserole dish just fine.
I used some of the frozen eggplant in lasagna and it tasted great. Then I tried it in two healthy appetizers and the flavor was excellent so I wanted to share those recipes with you. Just about every ingredient you should be able to pick up at a local farmers market! I reduced the amounts from the original recipes so you could make them for 2-4 people and enjoy them more often and I’ve adapted the second recipe so you can make it during the colder months with food you’ve already roasted and put up during the season.
Regarding spices: It’s really easy to grow things like rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil and you can use them so readily in many recipes throughout the year. But salt is a little different. I have been experimenting recently with different salts and I found that roasted eggplant was especially tasty with Alderwood smoked salt. The shop owners at Savory Spice Shop suggested the Alderwood over the Hickory salt because it is a bit lighter in flavor and it works as an undertone with the vegetables. It’s worth a small investment in different salts if you can find a shop that will allow you to buy an ounce at a time or let you schedule and appointment to do some sampling (Southern Season in Chapel Hill is excellent for this).
The first recipe comes from my new acquisition “Southern Farmers Market Cookbook” by Holly Herrick: Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Dip. The original recipe doesn’t measure out some of the ingredients. To make a smaller amount that I could enjoy in a day or two I guessed and measured out the eggplant, garlic and lemon juice until I felt like I had some good ratios for flavor. I’m not sure if it will taste the same as the original recipe intended, but hopefully you’ll like what I’ve done with it. You can use store-bought pita chips for this or spread it on toasted whole-wheat Indian naan bread. I was testing some bread in the freezer this past month for another project and I used the polenta bread from LOAF (Ron & Jaimie Graff) in Durham, NC for this recipe. It was excellent toasted up and spread thickly with the dip. It would make a great light lunch with some fresh heirloom tomatoes.
The second recipe is adapted from a blog called “Eat, Read, Drink” : Meagan’s Roasted Eggplant, Tomato & Goat Cheese Terrine. Like the previous recipe, this one is geared for a party. The reduced amount allows you to make it for 4 people. You can drool over the photo in the original blog. You’ll have to work at making the smaller volume look so nice. When I made it, I simply used a glass dish and didn’t fuss too much over it. So the picture is not nearly as lovely. The great thing about this recipe is that you can really change the volume of each ingredient to highlight one over the other. Pay more attention to your ratios rather than the actual measuring and you’ll find you can adapt this one to your taste. I used my own roasted tomatoes from last fall instead of fresh when I made it because they’re out of season. Then I served it warm and creamy from the toaster oven topped with some spicy pork and venison sausage from local sources. This was very good and it’s going to be a recipe I make again as the different tomatoes come back in season. I think it would be excellent with sungold and black cherry tomatoes or a blend of heirlooms instead of the roma. This recipe is very versatile from winter to summer.
Roasted Eggplant & Garlic Dip
- 1 cup roasted eggplant roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon Alderwood smoked salt (lighter than hickory smoked)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Put all of the ingredients into a small food processor and pulse until it’s smooth.
Goat Cheese Terrine with Roasted Vegetables
- 4 ounces fresh local goat cheese
- 1/4 cup roasted red & yellow peppers, chopped
- 1/4 cup roasted rosa eggplant, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic (more if you want)
- 1/4 cup roasted tomatoes OR 1/4-1/2 cup fresh heirloom tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon Alderwood smoked salt
- Optional: fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano and parsley added to the tomatoes
- Optional: pork or venison sausage, cooked
- Sea salt & pepper to balance any of the ingredients after you taste them combined
- If your goat cheese is not creamy, add some cream to it to make it spread more easily and blend the roasted garlic into the goat cheese. Remember the cheese will naturally be more creamy at room temperature or warmed up so don’t go overboard on the cream. Form a smashed log or ball on a plate OR spread it directly on baguette slices.
- Mix the chopped roasted peppers and eggplant together along with the Alderwood salt and a bit of fresh pepper. In the colder months if you have some caramelized onions, you could also add a tablespoon of them, finely chopped, to the eggplant and peppers. Then spread the mixture on top of the goat cheese either on the plate or directly on your bread slices.
- In the colder months, use your roasted tomatoes and adjust your seasonings with some rosemary and thyme before you spread it on top of the eggplant and peppers. In the warmer months when you can get fresh tomatoes try to use either a mix of large and small heirlooms with some fresh basil and green onions. Remember that the sungold and pear tomatoes will be almost sweet while the black cherry and purple Cherokee will have more richer acid-based flavor. Be light with your salt: a Andes Mountain or Himalayan pink salt. Add just a pinch of ground pepper; use most of your pepper in the eggplant and roasted peppers portion of the recipe.
- Serve this at room temperature or warmed in the toaster oven if you are using baguette slices and roasted tomatoes. You can top the warmed appetizers with pork or venison sausage from your local farm or hunter!