Grilled Baby Eggplant Bruschetta with Purple Pesto

I came across these gorgeous miniature eggplants at the Farmers’ Market yesterday morning and just couldn’t resist them. I’ve never had them before and had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I knew I could probably figure something out.  You might not be able to tell from the photo, but each of these eggplants is smaller than a regular sized egg.

I didn’t want to loose the beautifully colored skin of the little eggplants, so I thought I might grill them with the skins on.  When I also found this beautiful purple basil at the same market stand (which I’ve also never cooked with), I figured that just like the eggplant, basil is basil regardless of the size and color, and it would be perfect chopped and sprinkled over the grilled eggplant along with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Then I realized it might be really tasty to make a lemon basil pesto and serve everything bruschetta style on some toasted baguette slices.  Of course I never need an excuse to make basil pesto.  It’s definitely one of my favorite things, and I love that it’s as easy as throwing everything into the food processor.  I was really interested in seeing how the pesto would turn out with this purple basil as the base.

I’m happy to say that it was super tasty.  Pesto is so good that everything it touches is delicious.  Spread on some toasted garlic-rubbed bread and topped with little slices of grilled eggplant, it was the perfect summer afternoon snack.  It’s impressive enough to serve to guests, but simple enough that you won’t be slaving in the kitchen.  And if you have an outdoor grill, even better – your kitchen will stay cooler, which is always a plus in the hot summer months.

Baby Eggplant Bruschetta with Purple Pesto

8-10 baby eggplants
3 cups loosely packed purple basil
3 tablespoons raw pine nuts, divided
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, divided
large pinch of gray salt
juice from half a lemon
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 baguette, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Wash and slice the eggplant, and either spray or brush the slices with olive oil.  Cook them over high heat on a stove-top grill pan, or on a traditional grill.  Set aside.  While the pan is still hot, grill the slices of bread, and set aside to cool slightly.  (I sprayed the slices with olive oil, but you don’t have to.)  Peel one of the cloves of garlic, and slice off the top.  Rub the garlic on one side of each of the bread slices once they’re cool enough to handle.

Put the basil, remaining 2 cloves of garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, 2 tablespoons pine nuts and 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bowl of a food processor, and process until a rough paste forms.  Stop the machine, scrape the sides and taste the pesto.  You might need to add more lemon juice, olive oil or salt.

Toast the remaining tablespoon of pine nuts in a small saute pan, carefully watching to make sure they don’t burn.  To assemble, spread each slice of bread with some of the pesto and top with a couple slices of the grilled baby eggplant.  Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, the toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  You can also garnish these with some small leaves of purple basil.

Notes: You can use this pesto as you would regular green pesto – we had the rest of it with some gnocchi for dinner.  If you can’t find purple basil, this would also work with regular green basil.  If baby eggplants are not available where you live, you can substitute 1 small globe or one large Japanese-style eggplant.  I also found that the baby eggplants were just a little bit bitter.  I hadn’t salted them, because I figured since they were so small they wouldn’t need it.  Not sure if any of you have experience cooking with them, but if you do, I’d love to hear how you prep them, and if they’re normally bitter at that size.

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14 Responses to “Grilled Baby Eggplant Bruschetta with Purple Pesto”

  1. ¡Hola, Kim! Me gusta mucho tu post de hoy. El pesto es una de mis salsas favoritas también. Y las berengenas me gustan mucho. Yo antes de cocinarlas en aceite les pongo sal y las dejo 1/4 de hora que suden.Luego las lavo y las seco. Se quita el amargor.
    Sigo con mucho interés tu blog. Un abrazo

  2. Umm, please. May I have some? I really want to make this. I have been dreaming of making bruschetta for a while. Thanks for the nudge.

  3. Man do those roasted eggplants look good! I can’t believe how tiny they are. I’m not sure whether i want to take them home and cuddle with them or eat them!

  4. wow…..have never heard about or seen purple basil till now….did it taste just the same as a green basil pesto?

  5. Hi, Apeksha! The leaves smelled just like green basil, and even though the pesto was purple it did taste like green basil pesto.

  6. Wow, does this look delicious! I have never met a pesto I didn’t like!

  7. This looks absolutely yummy!!

  8. What a unique idea! I love it. Now I just need to keep an eye out for the purple basil…

  9. GORGEOUS photos and my oh my what a delicious looking dish. It looks so sophisticated and glamorous, but absolutely delicious at the same time. Well done, this is really impressive.

  10. I just made this recipe and it’s awesome. I love it! I used both purple and white baby eggplant. I sliced them up, put them in a bag and added sea salt, garlic powder, oregano (dried), a lil rosemary, and black pepper and then shook it up. I drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them in my oven instead of grilling them and they were not bitter at all. Thank you a million times for this yummy recipe.

  11. Hi, Lauren! That sounds amazing! I’ll have to try your version next time I make this.

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