Roasted Baby Eggplant
It’s been a busy week over here at IBIH and I haven’t had a chance to post in a few days! I cooked up a storm this morning though, and I’m looking forward to sharing those recipes with you this week.
Saturday morning we went to the Ladson open air market, my favorite place to stock up on produce and get inspired. I love it because it’s always cheap and you never know what you’re going to find.
This trip I came home with the usual huge stock of beautiful (did I mention cheap?????) produce, as well as some nice cherrystone clams and jumbo fresh shrimp. We had clams casino and curried shrimp this weekend and they were delicious. Sadly, I never got a chance to take photos (I know, so selfish!!!), so I’ll have to wait until next time to share them with you!
One thing I did find that I am excited to share are these beautiful baby eggplant. I bought a ton of them because they were so pretty! I wasn’t even sure how I would use them, I just knew I had to have them!
This morning I roasted some and I’ll be making the rest of them the same way, because they are just soooo delicious! My husband isn’t usually a fan but I think even he might like these – a theory I’ll test out tonight.
If you can’t find baby eggplant (I’ll be attempting growing some of my own this year) I suspect you could slice a mature eggplant and roast the slices. Then you could top it with the ricotta and drizzle it with olive oil just like I did with these. In fact you could probably do it in strips and roll them up for an appetizer. Note to self: do that soon.
When I made these I dipped into my stash of Wild Fennel Pollen which is expensive and has a delicate anise flavor. I was conflicted about it because I realize not everyone reading this has it or can find it. I got it at a specialty market awhile ago and have never seen it in a grocery store. For that reason, I almost didn’t use it.
But I don’t want to dumb my recipes down and assume that you all can’t, or don’t want to go the extra mile to obtain and try out a new ingredient. For me that’s half the fun and I suspect most of you are the same. So if you can find it, I highly recommend using it! But if you omit it, these will still taste incredible – they just won’t have the subtle anise flavor that mine did.
Makes 16 halves:
Wash the eggplant and cut them into halves. Place on a cookie sheet cut side up. Drizzle with the olive oil and then sprinkle with the fennel pollen (if using), salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 degree (F) oven for about 45 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Right before serving top with about a teaspoon of ricotta cheese per half. Sprinkle with freshly cracked peppercorns (pink or mixed if you have them) and just a few grains of salt. Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Based on my experiments, the best way to eat them is similar to an artichoke leaf. Just sink your teeth in and pull, scraping off all of the delicious filling, and leaving the tough skin behind.
I also tried eating them with the skin, which wasn’t totally unpleasant, but I preferred them without it. The roasted eggplant is beautifully sweet, and the cool, creamy ricotta creates a nice contrast. These would make a perfect accompaniment to pretty much any roast meat, but are also deliciously satisfying on their own as a vegetarian option. Can’t wait to hear what you think of them! I’ll be eating the rest of mine for lunch today – Yum!