This recipe was inspired by a lunch I prepared using ingredients from the garden. One friend brought beautiful heirloom Listada di Gandia eggplants and Hawaiian chili peppers from her garden, while the mint came from another friend’s raised bed. I had wanted to come up with a simple eggplant dish, one that did not involve frying. Chili pepper water is a local favorite – people here put it on just about everything. I roasted up the eggplants, made my version of chili pepper water and topped it all with fresh mint. Bright, with sweet and sour notes, and just a hint of heat from the chili peppers, it has become my summer staple for using eggplant. Just in time for weeks on end of gorgeous globes in my CSA box. It is delicious as a salad, but would also be lovely as a topping for crostini. —gingerroot
Eggplant and Mint
good sized globe eggplants
Pinches of coarse sea salt
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
For Chili Pepper Water
fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced (trim off end)
Thai bird chili, or other small hot red chili such as Hawaiian chili pepper, sliced (trim off end)
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat side of a knife
Combine chili pepper water ingredients in a glass jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Taste for sugar and salt, depending on the heat of the peppers and your preferences. It should be a balance of sweet and sour, with just a hint of salt and heat. Adjust as necessary. Let mixture sit for at least an hour before using, can be made a day in advance; store in the refrigerator.
Trim off ends of eggplants. Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise and score deeply with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern, without cutting through the skin (see photo). Using your thumbs, gently press up from the skin side to open up the flesh; sprinkle sea salt on each half, making sure that some salt gets down into the cuts. Repeat until you have cut and salted all the eggplant halves. Set aside for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Gently squeeze the liquid from each salted eggplant half and quickly rinse. Blot dry with a paper towel. Drizzle cut sides with olive oil, and place cut side down on the parchment paper. Roast eggplants for 25 minutes and check for doneness. Roast for a few minutes more if necessary; eggplants are finished when skin side is wrinkled and a bit deflated but not mushy. Remove pan from oven and allow eggplants to cool.
Carefully run a sharp knife around the edge of each eggplant to loosen the flesh. Press the skin up to cut the flesh away in small uniform pieces (along the scored lines). Alternatively, after loosening the flesh you could scoop eggplant out with a spoon. Essentially, you want to cut away as much of the eggplant as possible, without turning it to complete mush. Discard skins. Arrange on a serving plate or platter. If you are taking this to a picnic, pack in a Tupperware or container with a lid and plate at your destination.
Dress roasted eggplant with chili pepper water to taste. Rough tear about half of your mint leaves and top salad with torn and whole leaves. Serve at room temperature, or chilled.
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.