Once upon a time, a pound of cute little purple and white striped eggplant lived in a lovely garden with their father, a big purple Italian eggplant named Giuseppe, and their mother, a Japanese white eggplant named Mari. Life was pretty good – they were all given plenty to eat and drink and the compost in their part of town was utterly delicious.
One day, one of the purple and white striped eggplants overheard the cherry tomatoes talking amongst themselves. “It was incredible!” said a cherry tomato named Steve. “I never dreamed the world was so large!” “Oh, shut up, Steve,” said Marcus, an elderly tomato who was already starting to shrivel. “You have no business spreading lies around the garden. We all know you are making this up – I mean, you couldn’t roll two feet without getting stepped on, let alone all the way to Manhattan.” “Oh yes, I can,” retorted Steve. “I’ll prove it to you! Tomorrow, I’m going to the Union Square Greenmarket and I’m going to purchase an herb for my mother to wear – basil is all the rage these days!”
The little purple and white striped eggplant could hardly believe his ears. Leaving the garden? Why would anyone want to do that, he wondered to himself. But that night, he couldn’t sleep. Suddenly, he began to see the wisdom in what Steve had been saying. What was he doing, spending his whole life in one tiny corner of the world? He had to get out there. He had to take risks. Shaking his brothers and sisters awake, he told them what he had overheard. “Let’s go to Manhattan!” he said. “Steve already knows how to get there – all we have to do is follow him!”
And so it was decided. Bright and early the next morning, the pound of little purple and white striped eggplant set off, led by Steve, the cherry tomato. Unfortunately, the fairy tale these eggplants were born into was of the Brother’s Grimm variety, and so while Steve would miraculously survive to teach Marcus an important lesson about truth (namely, that he was telling it) that pound of purple and white striped eggplants was doomed. It would see the world – that was something – but then it would be purchased by a hungry female giant named Alana, grilled alive, and eaten.
But oh, in this fairy tale, deliciousness would prevail. Because young, tender, fairy tale eggplants quickly grilled in a cast iron skillet, sprinkled with a feta-tarragon mixture, and finished with honey and sherry vinegar are infinitely more delicious than poisoned apples, stale gingerbread houses, or magic beans (which to the best of my knowledge nobody even ate, but still). They are so supremely delicious, in fact, that you might be okay with fighting a hungry giant or slaying a fire-breathing dragon just to get your hands on them.
A couple notes about the recipe:
-The quality of the ingredients matters here: try to get fresh and tender fairy tale eggplants, a good quality feta, raw honey, etc. Believe me, you will taste the difference!
-I’m calling this eggplant “pan-grilled” because I’ve found that a cast iron pan can do pretty much the same thing as a grill. Direct contact with the hot iron gives the eggplant plenty of color and the pan gets hot enough to emit a good amount of smoke for that lightly charred flavor.
Pan-Grilled Fairy Tale Eggplant with Feta, Honey, and Tarragon
- 1 pound fairy tale eggplant (mine weighed about .5 ounces each), washed and cut in half lengthwise, stems left on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A generous ¼ cup crumbled feta
- ½ teaspoon chopped tarragon
- ½ teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons raw honey
Heat a large cast iron skillet on high until smoking, about 5 minutes. Toss the eggplant with a generous tablespoon of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Place the eggplant flesh side down in a single layer (you will probably have to do more than one batch unless you have a freakishly large skillet) and cook 1-2 minutes until you get some nice color on the underside. Flip (using tongs) and cook until tender, about 1-2 minutes more. If the eggplant begins to blacken before it’s cooked all the way through, be sure to lower your heat/let your pan cool down slightly.
Pile the eggplant on a large plate or serving platter. Mix together the feta, tarragon, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle the mixture over the top. Drizzle with the vinegar and honey. Finish with an extra sprinkling of salt, if needed. Finally, pick the eggplants up by their stems (yes, this is finger food) and enjoy!