21. März 2013

Eggplant with Basil-Nut-Crunch

I am a big fan of all things roasted.
Roasted nuts, roasted potatoes, veggies, squash… They all have a place in my little heart and I am not afraid to admit.
Roasting vegetables is not only mighty tasty, but also very convenient. Have no time to cook? Wash and dice your veggies, sprinkle with your favorite oil, and season with a few dashes of salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Place in the oven and bake until soft and slightly toasted.
Now you have about an 1 hour of time to get those things done, that have to be done. Like clean the bathroom, water the plants, weed the garden, or my favorite: Iron your clothes.
Oh I cannot tell you how much I hate ironing! It totally is on my list of the 5 Five most unpleasant things in the world! Too bad nobody has invented a washing machine that does not leave your shirts like the face of a 200 year old…Le sigh.
But I bribe myself with a delicious dinner  (that is roasting in the oven!) to make  things more bearable.
The recipe I have for you today got inspired by my love for (roasted) eggplants and pesto!
I am ashamed to admit that I did not realize the glory of a good pesto for a very long time.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in a ”noodles-with-tomato-sauce-only-family”. That means we had our spaghettis with nothing else than tomato sauce. There is nothing wrong with tomato sauce, and I still love it over my noodles, but in the long run it seems kind of boring to only have noodles with bla-sauce. Right?
When I moved to my own apartment, and went to restaurants more often, I tried new things and got inspired by new flavors. That was also the time when I had my first spaghetti al pesto verde and aglio olio. Since then I have tried many different pesto variations, and got creative in the kitchen myself.
The pesto I used for this recipe, is more crunchy and has no parmesan. That’s why I called it a basil-nut-crunch. It is totally vegan and also great as a spread on toasted rustic bread and your favorite noodles.
Feel free to sub the hazelnuts for almonds or brazil nuts, if you are allergic. You can also add some nutritional yeast to add some cheesy flavor.
Serve the eggplant with a grain of your choice, as an appetizer in a slice of bread or with a huge salad. I used quinoa, to add some protein to the dish.
I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as a starter)

1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups water
Pinch of salt

1 medium eggplant
1 Tbsp olive oil
Fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper

1 cup basil leaves, loosly packed
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup hazelnuts
2 big garlic cloves *
½- ¾ tsp fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Wash eggplant and cut (lengthwise) into thin slices.
Put on a lined baking sheet and brush with the olive oil.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Bake at 175° for 20-25 minutes or until soft and slightly roasted.

As soon as the eggplant is in the oven, rinse quinoa in a strainer with hot water to remove the bitterness from the seeds.
Add water, some salt and rinsed quinoa to a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook on low for approximately 15 minutes until the water is absorbed. Set aside to rest until eggplant is done.

*I use two garlic cloves for the crunch, but since I am not a big fan of raw garlic, I recommend to roast it in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Just brush the unpeeled cloves with a little olive oil and place in the oven next to the eggplant.
After 15 minutes your house should smell like garlicky heaven, the cloves should be soft and easy to peel.
Now they are ready to be added to the basil-nut-crunch!

For the crunch we need a food processor. Mine isn’t the best, actually, so don’t worry if you do not have a fancy one. This crunch is supposed to be a crunch, and not a pesto. We want some texture and flavor explosion on our plates! Crunchy-munchi…
Just add all the ingredients to the food processor and mix away. That means pulse, if you have a really fancy mixer, that blends everything smooth within seconds, or blend on high speed, if your mixer is  as tired and old as mine.

Serve eggplant and basil-nut-crunch on a bed of quinoa, a huge green salad or steamed greens.

There will plenty of basil-nut-crunch, so feel free to add it to any other veggie you like, smear on toast or use as a crunchy pesto for noodles.


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