Chargrilled Eggplant and Tomato with Basil and Garlic
One of the most gratifying things about shopping at a farmer's market, as opposed to a major supermarket, is that you become more aware of what vegetables and fruits are actually in season and at their best in terms of availability and supply, as well as cost. Add to this, quality, freshness, and provenance, and you are in food shopper's paradise as far as I am concerned.
Eggplants, tomatoes, garlic and basil are flourishing in kitchen gardens around Australia right now and market stalls are spilling over with them too. The time is ripe for a simple salad based on chargrilled or roasted eggplant and tomato with basil and garlic. My recipe is inspired by Guy Mirabella's Palmina's Charcoal Eggplants and Tomatoes. My Peter won't eat eggplant, unless it is in a really good baba ghanouj, so I am forced to make this dish for one*. Perhaps if I work on eggplant recipes often enough, Peter will experiment, as he has with the figs.
Incidentally, he asked me yesterday, 'Did you eat all of those figs?'. 'Yes, I did', I responded sweetly. 'Why do you ask?', I said, trying to sound innocent. 'Because I wanted to try one!'. *Imagine my surprise*. Progress, dear reader! Progress!
CHARGRILLED EGGPLANT AND TOMATO WITH BASIL AND GARLIC
1 medium sized eggplant
1 good sized vine ripened tomato
a splash of good quality EVOO
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 tiny basil leaves, freshly picked
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In his original recipe, Mirabella suggests that you prepare a fire and burn enough wood to provide an ample amount of charcoal. You can do this on a wood fired pizza oven, barbecue or chiminea. I chose to use our gas BBQ, simply due to the windy weather of late. My open faced chiminea belly blows too many cinders around the garden in the wind.
So, place the eggplant and tomato over the coals or on a BBQ grill and roast, turning constantly until the skins blister and turn black. Cook, turning regularly, until evenly charred all over. Remove and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, carefully peel and discard the charred skins, leaving the stems intact. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the EVOO with the garlic. Arrange the eggplant and tomato in the dish, spoon over the dressing, scatter the baby basil leaves over the top and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Mirabella recommends thick slices of crusty Italian bread as an accompaniment. If you would like to serve this as a side dish, it sits very well with lamb. A platter of eggplants and tomatoes roasted this way presents beautifully for a special occasion, such as dinner at your place! Buon appetito.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.