Rarely will I exclaim joy over a meal that has no meat in it. Whether in the form of pork, beef, lamb, poultry or even seafood — I prefer most of my protein to come from meat. But purely vegetable dishes, I seldom find filling, appetizing nor satisfying. I will, however, take exception with eggplant caviar.
My lunch today was toasted country bread and eggplant caviar — no meat, no seafood — and I didn’t whine nor complain. In fact, I’m exclaiming with joy.
Despite its name, there are no fish eggs in eggplant caviar which is essentially a spread (although I like it as a dip too). Eggplant caviar is a paste, ultra smooth or chunky, depending on how you prefer it — smoky, slightly charred and sweet eggplants, mashed then mixed with spices, herbs, olive oil and lemon juice.
But why is it called eggplant caviar if there are no fish eggs in it? I really have no idea. If I have to guess, its because like real caviar, eggplant caviar is best enjoyed when spread on thin toasted bread. Even better — topped with Parmesan and grilled just until the cheese melts. And because, like real caviar, eggplant caviar has such complex flavors and the combination is rather difficult to describe. In a nutshell though, it is simply delicious.
For best results, use purple Asian eggplants, the long ones rather than the rounder aubergine grown in Europe. Asian eggplants are sweeter and not bitter.
- 1/2 kilogram grilled eggplants
- 4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (herb-infused, if you like)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/4 cup crisp fried shallots chopped
- 2 bird’s eye chilies or 1/2 tsp. of dried chili flakes chopped
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon depending on your taste
- 12 large basil leaves (I used three kinds — sweet, purple and holy basil)
- Scrape off the flesh of the eggplants; discard the skins.
- Place the eggplant flesh in the blender or food processor.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse or blitz a few times for a chunky eggplant caviar. Puree for a smooth eggplant caviar.
- Pour the eggplant caviar into a bowl. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Drizzle in more olive oil, if you like, and stir lightly.
- Serve the eggplant caviar with toasted bread.