I have this little blue notebook where I write my recipes. It's filled with lists of ingredients, and quick bulleted instructions that probably only make sense to me. Every page shows evidence of ingredients past -- a splatter of red wine stains the page that reads "risotto", a smear of oil on the one marked "beet greens pesto". There are scribbles and question marks, cross outs and ripped corners, and dark circles around the ingredients I often forget. Some pages are ripped out, signs of disappointments and failed attempts, while others are dog-eared and faded from constant use.
Some days, when my mind feels too jumbled from the seemingly unending feeds of beautifully prepared dishes and innovative recipes in the media, I find myself referring back to my blue book, as a way to center myself. The other day proved to be one of those times. As I flipped through its stained and crumpled pages, I came to a page that caught my attention. In stark contrast to the pages surrounding it, this one appeared almost empty, save for a few lines and a simple title that read, "hummus".
Armed with my book, and the ingredients I had on hand, I went about preparing that hummus -- nothing more than some chickpeas, a few spoonfuls of tahini, a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil and a whirl in the blender. I grabbed a few eggplants that I had picked up a few days earlier at the market, speckled lavender and white, and cut them into spears to grill. I threw everything on a board, added a drizzle of tahini, a few vibrant herbs, and some naan bread warmed in the oven, and paused briefly to remind myself: simple is best. Simple is what inspires you.
grilled eggplant + hummus
I've never been a huge fan of eggplant, as I find it lacks flavor without its skin, but I often find the skin tough and unappetizing. I recently discovered these lavender and white speckled, delicate-skinned varietals at the farmers market, however, which I love. When grilled, they still hold their shape, but become soft and creamy on the inside, making for a delicious preparation and a beautiful presentation. Paired with some vibrant herbs and creamy hummus, this dish is perfect for a casual, light dinner, or for a fun appetizer. The hummus recipe can easily be doubled if you are making this for a party!
for the eggplant:
4 small eggplants (preferably Antigua eggplants, or another delicate-skinned, non-bitter varietal)
extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish
a few handfuls of fresh mint and parsley, for garnish
for the hummus:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons tahini paste
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons water
squeeze of lemon juice
sesame seeds and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
naan bread for serving
First, prepare the eggplant: trim the ends and cut into long spears. If your eggplant has a lot of seeds, make sure to only use the outermost flesh with the least amount of seeds [the seeds are often bitter]. Line a sheet pan with paper towel and spread the eggplant over it in an even layer. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and allow to rest while you prepare the hummus. *This step is optional, but I find that eggplant does not absorb as much olive oil when they are salted first.
Next, prepare the hummus: in a small sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once warm, add the crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant [about 2-3 minutes]. Remove from heat.
In a blender or food processor, add the chickpeas, olive oil and garlic, tahini paste, salt, water, and squeeze of lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to transfer hummus to a bowl and taste for seasoning.
Once eggplant has rested for about 15 - 20 minutes, pat it dry with paper towels to absorb all of the moisture that has beaded at the surface and to rub off any excess salt. Drizzle eggplant very generously with extra virgin olive oil. Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat and brush grates with olive oil. Working in batches [making sure not to overcrowd the grill or pan], grill the eggplant on all sides until golden brown on the outside and very soft when touched [the length of time will depend on how thick your spears are. For reference, mine took 6 - 8 minutes each]. Make sure to give them time, as there is nothing worse than undercooked eggplant! If you are working in a grill pan, you may have to drizzle the pan with more olive oil between batches.
Once cooked, remove the eggplant from the grill and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with tahini paste, and garnish with mint, parsley, sesame seeds, and coarse salt [if needed]. Top hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, and chopped parley and sesame seeds as garnish. Serve the grilled eggplant + hummus with warmed naan bread for dipping. It's especially delicious if you add some hummus and eggplant to a piece of naan and eat it like crostini!
serves 4 as an appetizer