Roasted Baby Eggplants
From executive chef and partner Mashama Bailey of the Grey in Savannah, Ga.
2 dried chilies de árbol, split
with seeds removed
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seed or mustard seed
3 whole cloves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup plum tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons kosher salt
4 baby eggplants, sliced in half, stems left on
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, torn
Toast the dried chilies de árbol in a skillet over medium heat, 3 to 4 minutes. When you can smell them, remove and put in a bowl with hot water to reconstitute them.
Warm the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat with the chilies de árbol, ginger, and onions. Cook slowly, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste and cook until combined.
Add the peanut butter, tomatoes, and chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the peanut butter is no longer chalky and all of the flavors are melded together, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste. Remove the cinnamon stick and one of the chilies de árbol. Puree the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes or until very smooth. (Note: You can make this sauce in advance and warm up for serving.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Salt the eggplant halves and leave in a colander at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse off the salt and dry the eggplant well.
Place the eggplant halves flesh-side up on a sheet pan. Brush 1 tablespoon of olive oil on beach half and slide into the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes or until a knife easily inserts into the flesh and the eggplant’s color has darkened.
Warm the sauce and toss the eggplants with the sauce. To serve, garnish with roasted peanuts, sliced serranos or jalapeños, scallions, and torn basil leaves.
Yield: 4-6 servings