This years Summer Fest is kicking off with a celebration of all things Eggplant and I couldn’t be more excited! My love for eggplant start a few years ago with Eggplant Parmesan, I mean really, who doesn’t love anything smothered with mozzarella cheese? And has since grown into an absolute obsession with all things eggplant! Strolling through the Santa Monica’s farmers market one can see how many different kinds of eggplant there are! White Eggplant, Baby Eggplant, the stripy purple and white eggplant called Rosa Bianca… and my personal favorite, the Japanese Eggplant. They happen to have a thinner skin and sweeter flavor and I love ‘em.
This past weekend I picked up a few slender Japanese Eggplants from the farmers market and decided to make Eggplant Chips! I thinly sliced the eggplants, making sure to keep the skin in tact, because I like the color! You can easily take the skin off if it’s not your thing. Then I liberally salted them and let them sit for an hour or so to get some of the water out….
I then brushed them with a paprika and garlic infused olive oil, and baked these for about 30 minutes until they were just slightly crisp but not yet burnt. And to compliment the Eggplant Chips, I made a Cashew and Cilantro Pesto! The pesto can easily be adapted if you would rather use pine nuts or another favorite nut, but cashews happen to be my most recent obsession. I eat bagfuls by the day. I can’t believe I went 25 years without eating Cashews – I’ve gotta make up for lost time!
- 2 cups fresh cilantro, packed
- 1/3 cup cashews, un-roasted and unsalted
- 2 cloves garlic, skin removed
- 1/2 cup olive oil + 3 tbsp
- 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, grated
- 4 Japanese eggplants, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- extra salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the cilantro, cashews and 2 cloves of garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Stream in 1/2 cup olive oil while the food processor is on, making sure to scrape down the sides once fully incorporated. Add the Asiago cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper and combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed and set aside.
- Slice the eggplants into 1/3 inch thick rounds and lay onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the salt over the eggplant and let sit for about an hour.
- Using a paper towel, blot off the salt and water and place back onto parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the remaining olive oil, paprika and garlic salt in a small bowl. Using a small brush, brush the olive oil mixture onto both sides of the eggplant.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the eggplant as you don't want to let it burn.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with finishing salt and serve immediately with the Cashew Cilantro Pesto Dipping Sauce.
And be sure to check out what all the other Summer Fest participants are making in celebration of Eggplant:
Big Apple Nosh: Baba Ganoush
FN Dish: Grilled Eggplant Recipes
Taste With The Eyes: Indian Eggplant, Lemon Confit, Garlic and Thai Basil
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Grilled Marinated Eggplant Sandwiches
Sassy Radish: Eggplant Caviar
The Little Kitchen: Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna