Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grilled Eggplant with Garlic-Cumin Vinaigrette, Feta & Herbs

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but as a kid I hated eggplant. Like really really detested it. I'd eat the peas that Super G would sit there and howl about having to eat. I'd eat M's celery from the chop suey. But I would not, could not, tolerate eggplant. It is my mom's favorite vegetable so pretty much we had it on a every so often basis. She would saute it up and I would sulk. I would call up Bethany and see if I could come over for dinner. I had have a temper tantrum. I would be downright rotten. And when it came time to sit down to dinner, I took the smallest portion possible. I forced it down with my milk. And I complained LOUDLY the entire time. (I did not have the stamina of M or Super G. who would carry on and make such a scene that prolonged dinner for a good 45 minutes. Picky eaters weren't exactly tolerated. We ate what was on our plates and nobody got up from the table until everyone was finished.)

Now it's a different story. Now those glossy purple vegetables call to me in the grocery. "Look at my smooth and shiny skin. Look at my plump firm curves. You know you want to caress me, to devour me. I'm so versatile." I get completely suckered in. Then I find myself at home with this luscious eggplant staring at me. Now what? I could do Baba Ghanoush. I love Baba Ghanoush. But really can't I do something different? I could make the Lamb and Eggplant Potpie, which is an all time favorite, but I don't have any ground lamb and it's hot. So while picking up noodles for the swimming pool for "family vacation" at Walmart, inspiration struck. I was standing there in the checkout and noticed Grilling Summer 2008 from the lovely people of The Best of Fine Cooking. I actually picked it up to see if they had anything interesting to do with a 1 pound pork tenderloin. But there. On page 88 was the most delicious looking eggplant salad staring me in the face.
I am so proud I restrained myself from going and buying more eggplant.

I made the Grilled Eggplant with Garlic-Cumin Vinaigrette, Feta & Herbs today for dinner. It's every bit as good as the photo. Man do I love eggplant now. And I have to say I'm getting better at the grill too. The Brain is working late so he doesn't get any. He can have leftover bucatoni.

As an aside, I will no longer be posting, or sampling any recipes from Cook's Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, or Cook's Country. For background, check here and here. My personal viewpoint is this:

Given a list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted. And the method can only be copyrighted providing it uses wording that cannot be said another way, such as family anecdotes or such, not phrases like "bring to a boil." That when a person adapts a recipe, makes the recipe grow and evolve, they change the ingredients and therefore adapt the cooking instructions to those changed recipes, the recipe is therefore a different recipe. I'm not talking changing from a dash of salt to a pinch of salt. I'm talking significantly changing.

As a personal policy, I site the recipe source that I adapt so that you can know my inspiration. I think the people at Cook's Illustrated/ America's Test Kitchen/ Cook's Country acted outside of their copyright and merely resorted to bullying a food blogger because they can. Or they think they can. Shame on you Cook's Illustrated. Shame.

That being said, I copied this recipe almost verbatim. And you can see from my notes in the recipe how easy to adapt this recipe is if you don't have exactly the right ingredients. I strongly encourage you to find and buy this handy magazine. There are some amazing looking recipes in here. And I'm definitely not going to post them all! If all of Fine Cooking recipes are like this, then I may subscribe. And if they ask me to take down my post, I will because I didn't change it at all, but I will be disappointed.

Grilled Eggplant with Garlic-Cumin Vinaigrette, Feta & Herbs

1 small clove garlic
kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (I ran out of lemons, but jarred lemon juice worked just fine)
1 small shallot, very finely diced (I used a baby onion from the garden)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and pounded in a mortar or ground in a spice grinder (I used 1/2 tsp ground cumin, call me lazy)
Pinch of cayenne, more to taste
1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil; more as needed
Kosher salt
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and a pinch of salt to a paste, or mince the garlic, sprinkle with salt, and mash into a paste with the side of a chef's knife.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic paste and 1 Tbsp. of the lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes. Combine the shallot with the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice and a pinch of salt in another small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk the olive oil, cumin, and cayenne into the garlic mixture. Season to taste with salt or cayenne if needed.

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill (covered on a gas grill; uncovered on a charcoal grill) until golden-brown grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn the eggplant and grill until tender and well marked on the second sides, another 3 to 4 minutes. The interior should be grayish and soft rather than white and hard.

Top the grilled eggplant slices with the shallots, feta, and herbs. Whisk the garlic-cumin vinaigrette and drizzle it on top. Serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on the Cooks Trifecta issues. I will remain informed and refer to my recipes by the name, "I don't know were I got this, but it's really good and I use it alot. So much that it's memorized and I don't even have it written down."

Mrs. White said...

Yum! Cumin is my favorite spice, feta my favorite cheese and eggplant my favorite veggie. Must convince hubby to finally crack open the grill!

Grace said...

hooray for eggplant! i've had it roasted, fried, sauteed, and steamed, but never grilled. i'll bet it's fabulous. really, when is it not fabulous? :)

Peter M said...

Eggplant rocks and this dish is further evidence...nicely done!

Bellini Valli said...

First of all this eggplant dish can only be described as amazing. Secondly my personal opinion is that we are advertising for chefs, magazines etc. when we post a recipe from their archives. Someone may read our post and enjoy it so much that they would like to subsribe to a magazine or cookbook they had never heard of or thought of shame on them.

Deborah said...

I don't remember ever having eggplant as a child, and only a few times as an adult. This looks fantastic though - looks like I need to eat more eggplant!

Cakelaw said...

Such a lovely, summery dish.

Johanna said...

your eggplant dish looks lovely - and thanks for the link to Melissa's site - it was well worth a read, if quite concerning

Zylo said...

Oh, why couldn't you have made this before I cooked my eggplant mush? This looks so much better.