Baby peppers, baby eggplants, sigh. You knew that’s what I meant, right?
I had a friend from church over for dinner, and made some homemade pesto for the occasion. (Click here for a previous post with my favorite recipe.) Though my DH (that’s Darling Husband) loathes eggplant in adulthood, I took a chance that this friend felt differently towards these innocent aubergines.
First, a crucial cooling beverage: my own recipe for
Strawberry Basil Lemonade
Prep time: two minutes.
Ingredients: lemonade, a few strawberries (4-7) hulled and halved, a few leaves of basil
I don’t have any amounts to offer, as this sweet beverage should be adapted to your taste. This is a lickety-quick drink if you’re starting off with purchased lemonade. Frankly, I find lemons too darn expensive to make my own lemonade. (And even for a gal willing to spend 7 hours on a special meal, hand-squeezed lemonade appears tedious). Lemonades I love and highly recommend: Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade or Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade. I find both brands neither too sweet nor too tart.
You can put the ingredients in a pitcher (and make directly there if you have an immersion blender) or you can make it in a blender and transfer it. You can also let all these raw ingredients mingle in a pitcher in the fridge for a few hours and come out with similar success. Easy and versatile. But here’s how I create my favorite version:
Fill one-third of the pitcher with your favorite purchased lemonade. Add a few strawberries, per your preference—they really add so much sweetness, best to start with about four. Toss in a few basil leaves (starting between three to five) and combine to desired consistency. Add almost one-third water at this point, diluting until it’s not too sweet and the perfect degree of refreshing to you.
You can strain this if you don’t like the strawberry seeds, but honestly they’re not so distracting with this light drink. Don’t be afraid to dilute the deliciousness. (That’s also why you’ve left room in the pitcher to add additional lemonade or strawberries).
I made this last summer at full intensity, with only a handful of ice cubes. The drink was so sweet and tart, it was impossible to enjoy with a meal. It’s much more enjoyable when all the flavors are subtle with that lemony touch of basil.
Serve over ice with basil or strawberries in each glass, or add a few whole leaves and berries to the blended pitcher. Isn’t it loverly?
Lindsey’s Roasted Baby Eggplants
I just had to create something special for such exquisite vegetables. I mean, really, what beauties.
You know how I feel about roasting (surely you do by now, right?)—it’s often the best method for intensifying the ingredient’s natural flavor and developing incredible texture.
If you’ve tried sauteing eggplant in vegetable oil, you know they absorb the oil like a sponge and turn into a bland, soaking sidedish. Roasting eggplant enhances its texture without doubt, but it’s also a great way to use the least amount of oil.
I halved my eggplants, placed them cut side up on a baking sheet, and brushed with a mixture of olive oil and (just a tad) balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have a silicone basting brush, it’s quite a handy kitchen tool. I’m becoming a big fan of brushing oil onto cut veggies (tomatoes, potatoes, etc.), as I can be more precise in distributing the oil evenly—rather than pouring on a gloppy mess.
Over the balsamic and oiled eggplants, I sprinkled a pinch of coarse kosher salt. The pan went into a 375 degree oven (I used the smaller toaster oven, I didn’t want to char these too quickly in the intense close-range heat) for 15-20 minutes. Just cook until the eggplants are tender and slightly charred.
Because there is a very light layer of oil on the veggies, they will come out drier than veggies tossed in a lot of oil (aka how I usually do things). After transferring to a serving plate, I drizzled the smokey eggplant with olive oil (just a little). You could certainly enjoy these as an accompaniment to any dish, but (as Katie and I can attest) these are great among parmesan pasta with fresh pesto. Ooooh, and don’t hesitate to sprinkle with some fresh shaved parmesan. The surprising texture is like mashed potato. You. are. going. to. go. wild. over. these.
p.s. come back soon to read about the buttery corn pesto I made to fill all those mini peppers!