June 8, 2016

Roasted Eggplant with Grilled Flatbread

Whenever I'm feeling down or need to feel inspired, I watch cooking shows like Parts Unknown (or anything with Anthony Bourdain), Chef's Table, Michael Pollan's Cooked (a new Netflix series), and my favorite The Mind of a Chef

While the newest season of Mind of a Chef (season 4) isn't yet available on Netflix, you can watch two episodes on the show's webpage.

In the first episode, New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton roasts eggplants over a gas burner just like you would roast a red bell pepper. When the eggplants are charred and meltingly tender, she mixes the smokey flesh with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. This simple spread is served with grilled flatbread. 

I've watched that episode three times now.

Disclaimer: I know this does not make the most appetizing-looking dish. I couldn't even get my boyfriend to taste it. But trust me when I say that it is quite delicious. Think unpureed, unadulterated baba ganoush. Please. Just trust me.

Incidentally, this is perfect at room temperature, so it's a great addition to summer picnics. Leftovers are good when mixed with cooked pasta and cheese or layered in a lasagna.

Trust me.

Smokey Eggplant
from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton

1 1/2 pounds standard purple-black eggplant
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

  • Set the eggplants directly on the burners of the stove and turn the flames to high. Allow the eggplants to char on all sides, turning intermittently with kitchen tongs, taking care not to puncture or split them when turning. They will do that on their own when they are cooked. The eggplants will smoke and spark and give off terrific aroma. Char eggplants over open flame for approximately 14 minutes, or until cooked through. When the skin splits and the eggplants start to collapse, place in a large stainless steel bowl and cover tightly with plastic film.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes to steam in their own blackened jackets, then uncover and let cool enough so you can handle them.
  • On a cutting board, with a sharp knife, split the eggplants in half from stem to base. Do not discard the bowl in which the eggplants steamed. With a large spoon, scoop out all the flesh and put it in a clean bowl, taking care not to carry along any of the bitter, charred black skin. Discard all the blackened skin.
  • In the bottom of the bowl in which the charred eggplants steamed there will be a rich and slightly viscous dark brown liquid with many flakes and bits of burnt and blackened eggplant skin swimming in it. Through a fine-mesh strainer, pour all of that delicious smokey liquid over the eggplant flesh, keeping all the blackened bits out.
  • Gently break down any large pieces of the eggplants by cutting it in the bowl with the sharp edge of the spoon or by taking a knife in each hand and giving the flesh a few scissors-like passes. The eggplant should be a little chunky but manageable.
  • Gently add in the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and salt, taking care not to overstir, lest you end up with a kind of unattractive muddy and gluey appearance. A fork, gently combed through when adding the final ingredients, is the best tool.
All of the beautiful varieties of eggplant work well, but the skinny Japanese kind are tedious to work with since they don’t yield as much flesh — use the larger varieties for efficiency. It tastes best at room temperature, so be sure to remove from the refrigerator in advance to allow it to shake off the dulling chill.

Grilled Flatbread
adapted from Minimalist Baker

1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
3/4 cup warm water

  • To a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yeast, salt, sugar, and flour.
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients and add olive oil and 1/2 cup of warm water to start. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Add more water as needed until a dough forms.
  • Transfer to a clean, well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic - about 2 minutes - adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  • Wipe out the mixing bowl and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Roll dough around to coat and position seam-side down in the bowl. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
  • Once doubled in size, cut the dough into 6 even pieces, arrange on a clean surface, and lay a damp towel on top. Let rest.
  • In the meantime, heat a large cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat.
  • One at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a large circle that's fairly thin (not paper thin, but less than 1/8th inch thick).
  • Lightly grease preheated skillet and cook the flatbread for 2 1/2 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 1/2 minutes on the other side. Repeat, adding more oil to coat surface, until all flatbread is cooked.

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