Food & Wine (September 2012)
Are pear and eggplant compatible flavors?
Usually when we have a question of this nature, we reach for The Flavor Bible. We find it an indispensable tool in the kitchen when you're looking for inspiration for how to use ingredients. There are no recipes, just a laundry list of ingredients and the flavors that pair best with them.
So what does The Flavor Bible say about pear and eggplant?
Not a thing. There's no mention of pairing the two.
But we like eggplant. And we like pears. So we had to try this combination for ourselves.
Pear-and-pecorino is a classic Italian salad combination. The sweet juicy pear and the sharp, tangy umami of the cheese is just about as good as you can get.
And we love the notion of adding walnuts -- they're a great bit of added crunch.
So how does the eggplant work in this traditional salad?
Answer: We're not sure!
Seriously, from one bite to the next, we couldn't decide whether we really liked this salad or not. It was a roller coaster of "We like it," "We don't like it," "Wait, we think we like it," and then finally, "Did we enjoy that?"
The eggplant certainly gives the salad a meatier heft. It's filling enough to be a light entree.
We definitely didn't hate this. In fact, we didn't even dislike it. We're still just not sure about putting eggplant and pear in the same dish.
We most likely won't be serving this again, but we definitely appreciate where it's coming from. One thing we love about writing this blog is trying new combinations of flavors, and dishes that really put us outside our culinary comfort zone.
Maybe our whole approach to using a summery abundance of eggplant -- gratins, stir-frys, and the ubiquitous but delicious parmesan -- has been wrong and too safe all along. Maybe we need to go bolder, and start putting eggplant into dishes where you'd least expect it.
- Eggplant Parmesan For Two
- Crisp Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Bread Gratin
- Chinese-Style Eggplant
- Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
- Stuffed Eggplant (Papoutsakia)
Total time: 30 min | Servings: 4
1/3 cup walnuts
One 1 1/4-pound eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Bosc pears—peeled, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon honey
Thin shavings of Pecorino Toscano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a pie plate, toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant over moderately high heat until lightly browned and tender, about 2 minutes per side.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the pear slices and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until just starting to soften, 3 minutes. Add the Cognac and toss the pears to coat thoroughly; remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of oil with the garlic, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and 1/2 tablespoon of the chives. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Arrange the eggplant slices on a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Arrange the pear slices over the eggplant and drizzle with the honey. Scatter the walnuts, cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1/2 tablespoon of chives over the top. Serve.