Roasted eggplant with pan-toast

I'm warning you now - there ain't nothing pretty about this dish. As I was fixing to take a photo of a bowl of my roasted eggplant, I stopped; I tried putting a generous spoonful onto a piece of pan-toast, and I said aloud to myself "no, pumpkin, no." Eggplant's odious color could only be a defensive maneuver in keeping us all from not wanting to eat the grayish innards of the aubergine vegetable that have the texture of silk and a subtle meat-like richness. Dressed up simple – with only salt, pepper, lemon juice and, if you're feeling fancy, a drizzle of EVOO – roasted eggplant makes for lovely dip with garlicky pan-toast, as a spread on a sandwich or stirred into pasta. 

Pan-toast is what could be termed pan-fried bread – it just sounds a lot more gluttonous than it actually is under that name. You're essentially making croutons or crostini in a sauté pan, rubbing both sides of a spongey ciabatta with raw garlic, and giving the bread a hot bath in olive oil. It's irresistible. 

This is an easy appetizer for friends, an addition to a Mediterranean spread (make a pal bring the hummus), or a lovely work's-been-hell-and-I-would-like-a-really-hands-off-thing-to-cook weeknight meal.

What to know

If you love fresh, crusty bread, but you don't buy it because you can never finish, have I got great news for you. This pan-toast recipe if a great way to re-infuse new life into bread that doesn't have the first-day softness anymore. Olive oil gives the texture of the bread a second freshness; you can even bring once-frozen bread back to life with the technique below. Other ideas that shouldn't keep you from buying that beautiful loaf at Eataly: French toast, croutons and bread pudding. All of these methods are the perfect ways to keep your bread going.

What you need

Roasted eggplant

1 1-lb eggplant

4 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp salt

Freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste 

Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

Pan-toast

1 loaf ciabatta

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Olive oil

Sea salt

How it works

Roasted eggplant

Preheat oven to 400 degrees-F. Place a sheet of foil over the surface of a baking sheet and set aside.

Cut off the top and bottom of your eggplant, and slice in half long-ways.

Lightly score (or diagonally slice a checkerboard pattern) into the flesh of both halves of the eggplants. 

Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over each side of the eggplant, attempting to evenly distribute it across the eggplant meat.

Place eggplant flesh-side down on the foil-covered sheet pan, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the eggplant has collapsed (basically, until it looks wrinkly).

Allow eggplant to cool for 10 minutes.

Holding the hot roasted eggplant with a dish towel, if needed, use a spoon to scoop out the eggplant meat (outside of browned or burned crusts) into a small serving dish.

Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, and stir with a spoon aggressively for about 30 seconds, creating a silky emulsion. (If you desire a smoother puréed consistency, pulse the eggplant, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. Then transfer to serving bowl. To each, his own.)

Garnish the roasted eggplant with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and serve alongside pan-toast, with fresh bread, mixed into pasta or as a sandwich spread. 

This serves two people eating this as a main course, or about four-six people when serving as an appetizer. This lasts for about a week if kept covered in the refrigerator. 

Pan-toast

Slice bread into 1/2-inch pieces.

Rub both sides of the ciabatta slices with raw garlic.

In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Allow olive oil to heat up for about 20-30 seconds. Place four slices of bread into the pan and allow to cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip the bread with tongs or a fork, and brown the other side of the bread. Remove bread from heat and set aside on a paper towel on a plate. Repeat until you've cooked as much bread as you'd like.

Finish by adding a few pinches of flakey sea salt, like Maldon, over the surface of the bread. Serve immediately with roasted eggplant or alongside burrata cheese, as a crostini or as a scarpetta.