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.