Do try this at home: Moruno’s baby eggplant rescoldo

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Wander the streets of Jerusalem and you’ll encounter tantalizing aromas of smoky grilled meats wafting from the kitchens of steakhouses and street food vendors. This is the me’orav Yerushalmi, or “Jerusalem mixed grill,” and it is one of the old city’s most iconic eats. Locals and eager tourists alike relish the sizzling plates of grilled chicken and lamb hearts, livers, gizzards and spleens with fresh tahini and hot pita bread. The meat is seasoned in a heady mixture of spices and sweet caramelized onions.

If you’re not traveling to Jerusalem any time soon, you can stop by Moruno at the Original Farmers Market location at Third and Fairfax to try chef Chris Feldmeier’s baby eggplant rescoldo. It comes with chicken gizzards and a creamy tahini chicken liver sauce. Moruno means “Moors,” so think of Feldmeier’s rescoldo as the Moors-meet-California version of the Jerusalem mixed grill. Hence, the eggplant.

2000 Moruno - 3 Eggplants
A trio of baby eggplants, of the Indian, Fairy Tale and Japanese white varieties. (Photo by Camellia Tse/KCRW)

The term rescoldo refers to a traditional Spanish method of cooking in which food is placed directly on the embers of the fire to cook. The idea is to get more even cooking. If you want your ingredients to cook more slowly, you rest them further from the fire. At Moruno, Feldmeier uses this technique with his baby nightshades because the edible skins develop a crispy char. It takes 5 to 10 minutes for them to cook. Generally, the smaller the eggplant, the sweeter it tastes. For this dish, Feldmeier recommends using Fairy Tale striped and Japanese white baby varieties. But any baseball-sized eggplants will do since we are now at the height of the season in Southern California.

2000 Moruno - Charred Eggplant
Use tongs to rotate the eggplants so the skins char evenly. A bit of char is what you want.  (Photo by Camellia Tse/KCRW)

2000 Moruno - Eggplant in Embers
Rescoldo is a traditional Spanish method of cooking that involves resting food directly on the embers to cook. (Photo by Camellia Tse/KCRW)