This dish is quite fragrant, served either as an appetizer or a side to an entree.
Here I shaped the eggplant caviar in ‘quenelle’, a classic presentation for any puréed type vegetable. This technique is simple, fast and offers beautiful visuals.
Accompanied by an arugula salad, occasionally with smoked salmon, or even spread onto toasted sliced baguette.
3 or 4 small to medium eggplants. (Or 2 medium to large ones). Choose them firm and shiny.
25 to 30 black olives cured in oil and herbs
3 garlic cloves
a small bunch of chives
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place the whole small eggplants in a dish and bake at 400 F for about 45 minutes, until soft to the touch, and the skin is wrinkled. If the eggplants are medium to large, cut them in half lengthwise and place the cut side down on the dish to bake.
Take out of the oven and set aside a few minutes until cool enough to handle. With a spoon, scoop out the meaty part of the eggplants into a colander to drain excess liquid. Discard the empty skin shells.
Be sure to completely scrape out all the inside.
Once drained, place on a cutting board and chop grossly.
You might place the chopped eggplant back into the colander as more liquids will drain.
Peel the dry skin off the garlic cloves and cut in half. If the garlic is aged, cutting the cloves open might expose a bit of green in the center. If so, this is an indication that the garlic is about to sprout. This green part is harmless, but my grandmother used so say it had a slightly bitter flavor and would not be digested. It should be discarded. To remove, use a paring knife, pull the inner green part from the stem where it is connected and it will detach from the clove.
We used to braid fresh garlic by their long stems and hang them to dry. We would them pick the cloves directly from the braid to use in cooking, fresher at the beginning of the season, more aged toward the end of the season which is when we encountered more green centers.
Then, you can crush the cloves by flattening a wide chopping knife on top of each of them and pressing with a firm hand. I prefer to use a non porous board for garlic and onions, but one that is still suitable to preserve the sharpness of your knifes. Chop garlic and chives finely.
Place chopped eggplant in a bowl and mix chopped garlic.
Chop the black olives finely and squeeze the half lemon.
Add the chopped black olives and lemon juice to the mixture.
Mix in the chopped chives.
I particularly like this extra virgin olive oil from Mas des Barres, an ‘Appellation’ from the Vallée des Baux, where I grew up. An ‘Appellation’ means that the geographic area where the olives grow has specifically identified boundaries within which yield restrictions apply to control growth and ensure quality consistency. This olive oil will bring a delicate, subtle, round, earthy, and rich aroma of nuts, fruits and fresh meadow. It is a fruity well-balanced olive oil of exceptional quality.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil and mix well.
At this point, the “Eggplant Caviar” is ready. You might refrigerate it until use.
To serve, shape the ‘quenelles’ with two soup spoons. Again, you might drain the mixture if there’s too much liquid. To shape the “quenelles”, take a spoonful of the mixture and keep rolling it from one spoon into the other until you achieve the desired shape.
Finishing the shaping. Then place onto a plate.
Finished dish for serving. Three eggplant caviar ‘quenelles’ with an arugula salad as an appetizer. Enjoy!