Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade
Aubergine doesn't look or sound anything like its English counterpart "eggplant." But, oh, how I wish it did. Let's be honest, could there be a less appealing name than "eggplant"? I mean, it's not an egg or a plant. Plus, phonetically, it's just not pleasing; it's harsh and flat.
Aubergine, however, flows elegantly out of one's mouth. I daresay it's almost too attractive a word for the vegetable is signifies. (In botanical terms, an eggplant is actually a fruit, but it's cooked and eaten like a vegetable).
Fortunately I'm mature enough to look beyond such petty issues and appreciate eggplant's attributes. A heavy, firm, eggplant with a glossy purple-black skin borders on the regal. And its flesh, though just an unassuming off-white color, becomes enticingly rich and creamy when cooked. Like a chameleon, eggplant has the ability to transform itself: when grilled, it is appetizingly smoky flavored and tender; when fried, it is irresistibly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
My current favorite is Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade.
The wonderful charred flavor of the eggplant is only enhanced with a boldly flavorful tapenade of savory roasted red peppers, salty olives, and fragrant fresh herbs. Since the flavors of this tapenade improve with time, you can make it a day ahead, then bring it to room temperature before serving. It makes an ideal appetizer for a party since it's easy to assemble and makes an attractive presentation.
Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade recipe serves eight people.
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 16-20 slices)
enough olive oil for brushing each slice on both sides
1/2 cup finely chopped homemade roasted peppers (or bottled peppers)
1/2 cup finely chopped mixed olives (such as Kalamata and Cerignola)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, mint, oregano, and parsley)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
4 tablespoons feta or goat cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
additional herbs, for optional garnish
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Mix all of the tapenade ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. (This can be made a day ahead.)