This method of preparing eggplant slices employs a little-known method of salting: pre-soaking the slices in salted water. This keeps the slices extra moist and creamy while baking them in a hot oven until their exteriors are browned. The marinade is added only after baking, and then marinated: the eggplant slices are allowed to stand for a few hours in the marinade to develop flavor.
The light sauce in this recipe calls for verjus (pronounced Vehr- ZHOO). Verjus is unfermented sour grape juice. It is simply the pressed, strained, juice of unripe grapes (often seedless green grapes, the most sour and acidic of which are available in early summer, in case you’d like to make your own) - and is usually produced and sold by winemakers. The cool thing about verjus is that it can be used instead of vinegar for salad dressings or deglazing or in recipes - and it won’t ruin your palate for wine, as vinegar would.
Though the bright acidic finish you get with verjus in this recipe is highly desirable, you can substitute diluted pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, or rice vinegar. You can find verjus in specialty stores or online - even at Amazon.com, where they sell the Fusion brand favored by Paula Wolfert (she says that one is milder than others).
2 elongated eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons, extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon, verjus or rice vinegar
1 garlic clove - minced
1 scallion (white and 2 inches of green) – thinly sliced
2 teaspoons, chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons, shredded fresh mint
Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Soak the slices in cold salted water for 30 minutes, or until the eggplant leaches brown juices.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush a baking sheet with some of the oil. Spread the slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn each slice and continue baking until lightly browned on the outside and soft and creamy within, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and allow the eggplant to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the verjus (or substitute, as described above), garlic, scallion, cilantro, mint, and the remaining oil. Whisk to blend. Arrange the eggplant slices attractively on a serving dish. Spoon the herb mixture over the eggplant. Allow to stand for at least 3 hours before serving to develop fullest flavors.
Recipe adapted from: The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, by Paula Wolfert (Wiley)