When eggplant met mint
Grilled eggplant with mint (Bill Hogan/Tribune photo)
What a name! Egg Plant. What a look: shiny, lumpy and purple. Eggplant, they say, is bitter outside and spongy inside. It lacks the winning attitude that can earn a vegetable a state-fair blue ribbon or a heavy-traffic spot in the produce section. Glancing down the aisle, eggplant finds few friends.
But eggplant, like many a shy sort, also attracts the secret admirer. Here's the rumor: mint.
Who would have guessed? Mint is so fresh and outgoing, full of mint-chip-ice-cream optimism. It's spear-edged and sharp-witted. Who would've thought of introducing bright-green mint to deep-purple eggplant?
And yet, opposites attract. Eggplant tethers mint's flighty tendencies. Mint cheers up eggplant's mellow mood. Together they offer tantalizing and soothing, foreground and background, cool and smoky. Chemistry.
The hookup might even inspire the lumpy purple egg to cast off its old label. And go glamorous, as aubergine.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.
Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
4 small (pear-size) eggplants
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested, zest chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 ounces feta cheese
1 Roast: Set whole eggplants over a medium-hot grill and roast, turning occasionally, until soft when squeezed, 35 minutes.
2 Marinate: When cool enough to handle, slice eggplants in half the long way. Settle in a serving dish. Whisk together oil, juice, zest, garlic, mint (setting aside 1 teaspoon mint), parsley, salt and pepper. Douse eggplant with sauce. Cover and chill 12-24 hours.
3 Grill: Set eggplant halves, cut side down, over a medium-hot grill (reserve dish and marinade). Tattoo eggplant deep brown, 10 minutes.
4 Serve: Return grilled eggplant to the dish, cut side up. Crumble on cheese. Cast on reserved mint. Serve at room temperature.