Every so often, an ingredient appears on menus everywhere with delicious results. From dips and snacks to shared plates, handhelds and entrées, eggplant is emerging as a menu star.
“We’re really seeing this explode,” says Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. “It’s no longer consigned to Italian or Mediterranean concepts.”
The unusual texture of eggplant–spongy when raw, but yielding to a melting, tender creaminess when cooked–allows it to absorb flavorful sauces and aromas that complement its mild flavor.
While frying is popular, it’s only one option. Traditional Sicilian caponata, a sweet and sour eggplant dish, is showing up in surprising places: as a topping for arctic char (at Cal Mare in Los Angeles) with caramelized fennel and grilled lemon; or deconstructed at Sixth and Mill (Los Angeles), where each ingredient shines.
Dips and snacks
Baba ghanoush is the seminal eggplant dip, but chefs are elevating it with flavorful upgrades. At X’tiosu kitchen (Los Angeles) green chiles, spices, and fresh citrus give the Middle Eastern dip a Latin flair.
Eggplant lends itself well to shared plates. The charred Japanese eggplant at Katana Kitten (New York City) skewers bites of eggplant drizzled with ponzu and topped with crunchy shallots, peanuts and fermented bean curd. A standout dish came from Hunan Slurp (NYC): stout cylinders of roasted Japanese eggplant, stuffed with grilled peppers and preserved duck egg, drizzled in a rich sesame dressing.
Entrées and handhelds
Veg-centric eggplant entrées span from global mashups like the roasted eggplant tostada at Guerilla Tacos (Los Angeles) to the Southern comfort of the eggplant Orleans at Ina Mae Tavern and Packaged Goods (Chicago): slices of breaded, fried eggplant stacked with sautéed crawfish, smothered in a crawfish cream sauce.
Ask your Gordon Food Service Sales Representative for eggplant ideas that match you menu needs.