I had picked up a couple of eggplant at the local farmstand, so I was looking forward to this recipe. As usual, I didn’t actually read it beforehand, so assumed that I needed some bread for the “tartine”. I think I’d even read through this one before. Oh well. The bread was nice anyway! 🙂
I also had been looking up some recipes. Lately I’ve been getting a bunch of emails from “America’s Test Kitchen”. I have a number of friends who love their recipes, as they tell you the “right” way to do things and are never-fail. I assume I can always learn something. So, I decided that since I had two smaller eggplants, I would go ahead and try both methods. To be honest, I was sure that the Test Kitchen method would win out. After all, they are so very certain about it. Essentially, this is a slice of roasted eggplant topped with a salsa and some sliced cucumbers. I’d run out of celery. Oh well. (as a Dorie side-note, my mother got me eating celery again because she strips off all of the strings too – and now that I’ve adopted that method, I like it a lot more)
The test kitchen method is a bit more involved. The eggplant is not peeled, and sliced into 3/4″ slices. They are salted and then left to draw out the “bitter juices” for at least 1-1/2 hours. Then the slices are rinsed thoroughly, and pressed in between many layers of paper towels to get rid of those juices.
Dorie’s recipe simply has you trim some of the skin from the eggplant, then slice 1″ thick.
At this point, I was a bit skeptical. The skin looked bad, the slices thick, but, I persevered!
At this point, for hers, I followed Dorie and put the slices on some lightly oiled foil, and topped with a teaspoon of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper. For the test version, I prepped the same, but just sprayed with some virgin olive oil that I keep in a pump sprayer. They got the same salt and pepper.
I roasted Dorie’s for the full 45 minutes, I ended up just adding the test slices at 35 minutes to go (I think I’d read that 25 minutes at 400 was right – I was splitting the difference). I brought them out, and while they look a bit different, not that much. Dorie’s are on the left.
While the eggplant cooled a bit, I made the salsa. Simply chopped vegetables and the additional ingredients – in this case green olives and capers along with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar. I used basil because that was what I had on hand (and besides, I like the combination). And the cucumbers get sliced.
Since I wanted a side-by-side comparison (I was certain that there would be a big difference), I put one each of my eggplant slices on a plate. Again, Dorie on the left. I have to admit, it looked really nice with the brown crust on top (a result of the extra oil, I’d guess).
And then it gets assembled!
This was really good. I have to say that the only real difference between the eggplant was because of the peeling of the eggplant skin (better), and the thickness of the slice (better as well) of Dorie’s. The obvious other thing is that it’s so much simpler! And while I often wonder about Dorie’s (extra) steps, in this case, her method was terrific – no reason to mess with all of that other stuff!
Now – the remainder of the dish. My olives came from a local company, so maybe were a bit stronger in flavor than others (though in my imagination, everything in France is more flavorful – so a bit of a hollow excuse, I expect). But I thought that they overwhelmed the flavor of the eggplant (that was so, so good!). The cucmbers were a bit of an odd addition, but still tasty. I think absent the olives, this would have been a really great dish. That said, it was still very good. Next time, I would just leave the olives out. Overall, I can totally see making this again. As a starter, or along side something grilled – or even with just a little cheese to round it out a bit as a light meal.
This was a lot of fun to make, and it was even better to learn something new. Thanks Dorie!