Eggplant, with is lustrously smooth purple skin and pendulous shape, is one of those beautiful vegetables whose preparation is an enigma to many cooks. However, Mark Peel of Campanile's comes to the rescue with some simple recipes, including one for Baba Ghanoush. Mark cautions that eggplant should NEVER be al dente (it's unsavory and spongy that way) and should always be cooked thoroughly. One of the easiest preparations is simply to toast sliced eggplant in a toaster oven. The slices will be slightly charred and crunchy, and make a fabulous filling for a savory sandwich.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 medium unblemished eggplant (about 1.5 lbs)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
¾ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1. Place a cast iron skillet large enough for the eggplant to fit comfortably over high heat and put the eggplant in it. Cook for about 1 hour, carefully turning the eggplant every 15 minutes as the skin becomes black and charred. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool enough to handle (but still hot inside, about 5 minutes).
2. Trim off the stem end of the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully scrape out the insides with a spoon, discarding the charred skin. Some of the pulp will have darkened; this gives the eggplant a smoky flavor. Mash the pulp in a bowl with a fork, breaking up any large pieces. Stir in the garlic, olive oil, salt , pepper, and lemon juice. Let stand at room temperature for several hours or refrigerate overnight.
Musical break: Dirt by the Penguin Café Orchestra