Creating a simple dish from the garden

    It’s been quite a summer here in New Jersey! Between the devastating derecho and the endless summer heat, it’s a miracle my garden has survived. But thanks to the sandy soil of the region, the Garden State has more than lived up to it’s name. Even someone without a green thumb (like me) can coax beautiful eggplants, tomatoes, and basil from a small plot in her backyard.

    Today’s recipe combines all the best that New Jersey has to offer – it tastes like summer to me! Enjoy it hot or cold, as a side dish, dip, pasta topping or as a sauce for your favorite lasagna. And if you don’t have a garden in your backyard, don’t worry. Feel free to suport your local farmers market and stock up on Jersey-fresh ingredients.

    Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Basil – Serves 8


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    vegetable oil
    1 medium eggplant
    1 medium onion, peeled
    2 cups tomatoes, roughly chopped
    ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
    1 tsp salt
    ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
    2 tsp olive oil


    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet with vegetable oil.

    Pierce eggplant several times with a sharp knife. Place eggplant and onion on roasting pan. Brush eggplant and onion with vegetable oil. Roast for 30 minutes. Flip vegetables; roast for 30 minutes more.

    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, salt, and red pepper flakes. Set aside at room temperature until vegetables are finished roasting.

    When roasted eggplant is cool enough to handle, but still hot, slice it open and scoop out small chunks, avoiding skin. Add eggplant to tomato mixture and toss.

    Next, discard outer layer of roasted onion. Chop onion into bite-sized pieces. Add to tomato mixture.

    Finish tomato and eggplant mixture with 1 to 2 tsp olive oil to taste and fresh basil. Toss to coat. Serve warm or cold.

    Yields about ½ cup per serving.

    Jersey Bites is a collaborative website of food writers in New Jersey. They write about restaurants, recipes, food news, food products, events, hunger relief programs, and everything else that tickles their taste buds.

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