For the Doristas the final countdown has begun. Just four recipes to go before they complete their journey through "Around My French Table". I had joined the group late and owing to grid-shift and unavailability of the ingredients in this part of the world, left the group early. Nevertheless I hope to catch-up with the others in the years to come and cook my way through all of Dorie's books as and when I find the ingredients and the time...
Why Eggplant Caviar ?? Because it sounded so profound but in fact seemed to be a close cousin of our homey Odiya-style Baigan Bharta. Further there was this assurance from Dorie that it contained only 70 calories per serving ! Now isn't that the kind of food you would want to prepare for your family ?
Though in her book Dorie gives specific measurements for all the ingredients that go into her "caviar," I simply looked up her list, then added a pinch of this... a bit of that and an extra spoon of this until I was completely satisfied with the way the bowl of eggplant caviar tasted. My guess is that you'll probably do the same... so here is what went into the caviar... five small oven roasted eggplants, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, some basil, some thyme and coriander leaves, lemon zest, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, 1 small tomato diced and a red hot pepper for heat. As per the recipe I had pierced the eggplants at several places and roasted them at 400°F for 30-45 minutes that is until their bellies felt soft and well cooked. Once the eggplants were cool enough to handle I peeled them, discarded the seedy parts within, then mashed the eggplant flesh with a fork and stirred the remaining ingredients into it. Finally I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and tada ... it was done.
I had covered and refrigerated it until dinner time... and served it on toasted whole grain bread as starter. Needless to say it was a big hit !!
While its similarity with the Odiya-style Baigan Bharta was evident, both husband and I agreed that using olive oil instead of mustard oil, basil and thyme in addition to coriander leaves and squeezing lemon juice into the mixture had brightened the bowl and pulled our otherwise humble baigan bharta up a notch.. Also we felt that while in its "caviar avatar" the roasted eggplants were great as a spread on gourmet sandwiches and tartines, it wasn't a good idea to serve it as a side with rice and dal..
As I mentioned this was practically a non-recipe. However if you are interested you can find the specific measurements in Dorie Greenspan's lovely book " Around my French Table."
P.S: Since I added the olive oil a teaspoon at a time till the flavors felt just right, only 1 tablespoon of olive oil went into my "eggplant caviar" which is half of what Dorie suggested. That means my eggplant caviar was actually less than 70 calories per serving !!!