Monday, August 22, 2016

Charred eggplant with tomato, tuna and quick-pickled onions

Succulent, plump summer tomatoes and eggplants. Good, firm, meaty tuna in olive oil. Lightly pickled, sweet and sour red onions. Fresh flat-leaf (always) parsley, lots of it.

The tomatoes are grated and that glorious, sweet, red pulp is spread on a platter.

The eggplants are put straight on the flame of the gas stovetop —or on an open grill or bbq if you have it— until they are charred and blistered and wrinkled all over. Until they are meltingly soft and start to ooze out their juices.

They are peeled and their smooth pulp is chopped up. It gets tossed with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, sea salt and piment d’espelette, a Spanish red chilli pepper, adding a mild heat and flavor.

Red onions are lightly and quickly pickled in some honey, good white-wine vinegar and salt. They are scattered on top of the eggplant, and then the tuna is flaked over the top. Lots of flat-leaf parsley is sprinkled over the whole lot, followed by some salt and a good grinding of pepper that complements the tuna so well. The whole thing is then drizzled with more extra virgin olive oil.

Sweet, intensely smoky and savory eggplant, juicy, ripe, redder than red tomatoes, robust tuna, tangy, sweet and sharp onions, rich, fruity olive oil, and herby parsley added not just for show but to bring freshness to the dish. Perfect play of summer flavors.

Have your grilled bread ready. This is going to be the best bruschetta you’ll ever make. Enjoy!

Charred eggplant with tomato, tuna and quick-pickled onions
Adapted from The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij

The quality and flavor of the eggplants and tomatoes will make all the difference in this dish. You won’t have any problem sourcing good produce because it’s summer! Now is the time for eggplants and tomatoes, so make the most of them.

Eat this as a main dish together with lots of grilled bread to dunk in the juices or scoop up the mixture, or eat it as a bruschetta, topping your grilled bread with it.

Yield: 4-6 servings as a light lunch

2 large eggplants (about 250 g each)
Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
2 good pinches of piment d’ espelette (or other mild red chilli pepper)
1 red onion (about 100 g), peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tsp white-wine vinegar
1 tsp runny, clear honey (I used Greek wild thyme honey)
4 fresh plum tomatoes (300-350 g in total)
250-300 g (net weight) good quality canned/bottled tuna in olive oil
A large handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black or white pepper

Special equipment: box grater

Rinse the eggplants well under cold, running water and strain them.
Using a gas stove-top, sit the eggplant on the flame of the gas burner, set at a medium heat, and allow to cook, turning the eggplant around from time to time. They’re ready when the eggplant has collapsed, start to ooze out juices, the skin has blackened, wrinkled and charred, and the flesh has softened. This will take 15-20 minutes.
Using an open grill, place them whole on direct heat and char-grill them, turning them around periodically with tongs in order to char them evenly all around. In the end, they should have a blackened skin that crackles and falls off when you touch it and they should be soft inside.
Using the oven, preheat it (on the grill setting) on 200°C. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the eggplants on it. Prick them in a few places with a fork. Place baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and grill the eggplants for about 50 minutes, turning them over regularly, until their skins are charred and they are soft inside.

When ready, place them in a large bowl until they’re cool enough to handle. Remove the skin with your hands (it’s okay if there are some stubborn little pieces of skin stuck to the flesh), discard it and place the flesh on a chopping board. Chop it roughly and place back in the bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, a little salt and the piment d’ espelette and mix through with a fork.
The prepared eggplant can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, covered with plastic wrap.

In a small bowl whisk the honey, vinegar and a little salt, and add the sliced onion. Mix through and set aside. You can do this a day before and keep the onions in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. They keep for 3 days in the fridge.

Grate the tomatoes on the big holes of a box grater. Empty them in a large platter (it’d be better if it has a small rim) and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Spread the eggplant on top and flake the tuna on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle with some pepper and scatter the onions over the top followed by the chopped parsley. Sprinkle some salt and drizzle with some olive oil.

Serve immediately with lots of bread. Serve in individual dishes, scoop the mixture with your bread, or make bruschette.


  1. The colors of this dish look stunning! Pretty sure it doesn't get much better than this!


  2. Do you remove some or all of the seeds?

  3. Serious droooooooooooool inducing recipe and images. Can't wait for summer, then this is 100% happening!!

  4. This sounds so delicious!!! I adore egg plants, especially charred ones. I am totally going to try this. I may just have the whole plate to myself. ;)

    1. Haha I know what you mean. I wanted to it all myself too :)