Eggplant caviar 茄子のキャビア

japanese cake

Every time I see a good eggplant, I can not resist getting it. I saw some nice looking small Italian eggplants at the grocery store and bought two. Since I occasionally forget what I bought and find the liquefied remnants later in the fridge, my wife kept the eggplants out on the counter for me to cook that evening (translation: immediately!). After I considered making my usual suspects, I realized I have not blogged this dish and decided to make it. I first saw this in one of the Silver palate cookbooks many years ago and made it several times since then but not recently. My recipe is loosely based on the recipe from the book. This time I did not check the original recipe and made it from memory. As usual, I made some of my own contributions (read modifications) to the dish. Why is this called “caviar”? I am not sure. But the seeds of eggplants may look like “caviar” with some, no, lots of  imagination. Japanese have “tonburi” とんぶり, a type of grass seeds prepared a specific way, which is sometimes called a “land” caviar and is more similar in appearance and texture (not taste) to real caviar than this dish.

 The amount is an appetizer for two.

Eggplant: I used two small Italian eggplants. I pricked the skin with the tines of a fork so that it will not explode during baking. (A digression: One time I was barbecuing small Japanese eggplants and did not think to prick the skins. I put them in a very hot weber grill with the lid on. My wife and I sat back with a nice glass of wine to relax and wait for things to cook when suddenly there was a very loud “whumph” from inside the grill followed by a large puff of ash out the bottom. I jumped up and removed the lid…there was absolutely no trace of the eggplants. They had exploded so violently there was nothing left; not even bits plastered on the lid. Lesson learned: prick the eggplant.) Back to the recipe: I baked the eggplant for about 15 minutes in a preheated 450F toaster oven turning once half way through the time. The eggplant should be totally soft, otherwise bitter taste may remain. I suppose you could microwave the eggplants as well. I let it cool down and removed the stem end and skin. I cut it in thin strips lengthwise and cut into small dice but I do not like to totally mash it.

I finely diced one small shallot, zest (using a micrograter) and juice of half a lemon, a few sprigs of chopped parsley (or other fresh herbs such as fresh basil if available). I mixed this into the eggplant above and season it with salt, pepper and a good olive oil (2-3 tbs). I tasted it and I thought that pine nuts would go well with this dish. So I dry roasted pine nuts (2 tbs) in a dry frying pan and mixed in (optional).

I let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving so that the tastes amalgamate and the shallot become less sharp. I served this with more olive oil on the top. Thinly sliced small baguette rounds or good crackers will be good with this. We had this with crackers. The nice soft texture of the eggplant, the fresh taste of the lemon (especially the zest) and parsley all worked together. My addition of roasted pine nuts added richness and some different texture.

This is fairly easy to make but tastes really good. Some fruity white wines will go well with this but, as usual, we drank a red.

P.S. In view of the catastrophic tragedy in Tohoku-Sendai area, we offer our sympathy and support for the survivors. All my family and the friends we contacted are Ok but our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were not as fortunate. We were in the Sendai, Matsushima and Kinkazan areas in 2006, which makes watching these images and videos much more difficult.

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