I have always loved eggplants. There is something deeply satisfying about its smoky, earthy taste and its rich, fleshy texture. In the Philippines, eggplants are sliced, fried and eaten with a soy-sauce-and-lemon (or vinegar) dip; added along with other vegetables to sinigang (a sour broth with meat or fish); or char-grilled, peeled, dipped in egg and fried. Another popular dish is the Italian eggplant parmesan, which calls for layering fried (or roasted) eggplant slices with tomato sauce, mozzarella & parmesan cheese. All very tasty dishes, but in each case, the eggplant tended to take a back seat to the other ingredients in the dish, cast in a supporting role instead of being the star. So when my Hungarian friend Bori visited last year, I was very happy to learn from her a new preparation that was extremely simple, and which let the eggplant’s own unique flavor stand out with very little embellishment : eggplant cream.
It was, in fact, a variation of the middle-eastern Baba Ganoush, which combines peeled, roasted eggplant with tahini (sesame paste), and any number of condiments from onions and garlic to lemon, parsley and cumin. But Bori’s eggplant cream was the simplest, and for me, the tastiest of all–a Baba Ganoush for eggplant purists. We spent a pleasant half hour in the kitchen as she made the dish from scratch. It was her grandmother’s recipe:
Hungarian Eggplant Cream
to serve 2
Pierce the eggplants with a fork in a few places. Grill over an open flame until the skin is evenly charred all over, and the eggplant is soft. Take off the flame and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, pound the eggplant until you obtain a rather smooth cream (Bori insisted that metal implements would cause the eggplant to acquire a bitter taste). Add the oil, finely chopped onion and salt. Mix thoroughly and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
This is very good with some crusty toasted slices of baguette or pita bread, and maybe a green salad or peas on the side.