this past week, the news was all about how to survive in tiny apartments. okay, fine. a few other things happened too, but let’s just say all of our news was about how to survive in a tiny apartment. there have been photographers and film crews and requests for interviews with brazilian radio programs. in an effort to regain a bit of normalcy in this tiny place, i decided to make one of my favorite summertime comfort foods: eggplant caviar.
i first learned how to make it while living in france, and since then, every summer it makes at least a few appearances. it’s not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing dish, but as the name suggests, the taste is salty and delicious and even, a little bit fancy. if you’ve been reading my essays over on the equals record, you know that i’ve joined james at the union square farmer’s market on saturdays. we sell vegetables for a farmer from upstate and this weekend was the first that we sold eggplants. they’re japanese eggplants, a slender variety that, for the modest among us, are difficult to photograph without blushing.
eggplant caviar is simple to make, but if you don’t have a grill, it does require a hot oven. i broiled the eggplants while james was out of the apartment for a few hours. this choice had the double advantage of meaning he couldn’t complain about the heat, and i didn’t have anyone to complain to but myself. when it was ready for eating, we blended ours into whole wheat pasta with thinly chopped summer squash and fresh basil and packed our dinners into containers to bring down to the river. the very best part about our tiny apartment? living so close to a view that takes my breath away, every time. here, a sort of recipe:
one large eggplant, or several smaller ones
a tablespoon, or so, sea salt
a tablespoon, or so, ground cumin
two cloves of garlic, chopped
juice from half a lemon
– using a small knife or fork, puncture several holes into the side of eggplant to help release steam while roasting
– place eggplant on a baking sheet and drizzle in olive oil
– depending on size, broil eggplants for 20 – 40 minutes, turning once
– when eggplants are soft and withered, they’re done. remove from oven and allow to cool
– in the meantime, chop garlic cloves and blend with salt and cumin. if you have a mortar and pestle, this is the time to break ‘er out. if you don’t, do what i did and use the back of a wooden spoon for mashing.
– when eggplants are cool enough to handle, use a knife to make a long slit down the center. with a spoon or the side of a fork, scrape the cooked eggplant out of its skin and into a bowl
– add the cumin, garlic, & salt mixture and juice from half a lemon to eggplant and stir
– allow caviar to sit for several hours to allow flavors to blend
– garnish with fresh basil and serve at room temperature. it’s equally delicious on a piece of toasted baguette or grilled pita as it is stirred into pasta