Let’s Hear It For Wrinkles
Like many women, I bemoan the fine lines around my eyes and forehead that have come with age (and wisdom, I might add).
While I may not be fond of them on my face, I rejoice in wrinkles whole heartily when it comes to cooked eggplant.
Specifically, long-cooked eggplant that gets a little shriveled, signaling the interior has taken on that coveted custardy texture.
That’s exactly what “Whole-Roasted Eggplant with Calabrian Chili Crisp” delivers.
The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Let’s Eat” (Union Square), of which I received a review copy.
The book is filled with humor, as well as 101 appealing recipes, some of them based on his family’s Italian American traditions, and others he’s created to satisfy his own comfort-food appetite.
Cozy up to everything from “Salami & Egg Sheet Pan Hash,” “Fork & Knife Carbonara,” and “Piri Piri Roast Chicken” to “The Big Italian Sandwich” (that gets a pull-out centerfold photo, no less) and “Banana Nutella Cake with Mascarpone Frosting.”
Pelosi writes that he takes inspiration for the eggplant recipe from cook and food writer Andy Baraghani who gave him the idea to roast it whole in the oven.
That technique alone makes this recipe one of the most effortless ones ever. Simply stick a whole globe eggplant in the oven, and forget about it for about an hour.
By that time, the eggplant skin will have turned slightly wrinkly. Pelosi instructs to bake it for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I think my eggplant could have easily baked another 10 minutes or so. As it was, the texture was quite soft, but not thoroughly baba ganoush-like, which is what I would have preferred. So, that’s why I adjusted the time in the recipe below.
Once the eggplant comes out of the oven, drape it with a clean towel and let it steam for 15 minutes to continue absorbing heat and turn even softer.
When ready to serve, gently slit the eggplant down its center like you would a baked potato. Then, dollop with a quick sauce of Greek yogurt stirred up with Calabrian chili paste.
I think the eggplant needed just a touch of salt to bring everything together, so I added that step just before topping with the yogurt sauce.
The yogurt adds a cooling touch to the sweet-fiery Calabrian chili paste, making for the perfect contrast. Together, they create a perfect flavorful, rich accompaniment to the creamy eggplant.
The dish easily serves 2 as an entree with grilled pita bread and a green salad; or 4 as a side dish or appetizer.
It’s a dish that invites you to dig in from the get-go.
Whole-Roasted Eggplant with Calabrian Chili Crisp
(Serves 2 to 4)
1 medium globe eggplant (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Calabrian chili paste, plus more for serving
Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
Wash the eggplant, then pat the skin dry completely. Place the eggplant on the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 1 hour to 80 minutes, until the skin is wrinkly and the eggplant is extremely soft. Remove from the oven, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let steam for 15 minutes. (This facial makes the insides extra soft and delicious.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt and chili crisp
Transfer the whole eggplant to a serving platter (or don’t). Slice it lengthwise, leaving the stem intact and taking care not to cut all the way through. Use tongs to pry it open, sprinkle salt to taste, then spoon the chili-yogurt mixture all over its flesh. Spoon a little more of the crisp over everything and serve.
Adapted from “Let’s Eat” by Dan Pelosi
More Eggplant Recipes to Enjoy: Stir-Fry Udon Noodles with Eggplant, Portobello, Thai Basil, and Celery Leaves
And: Eggplant Curry