Marinated Baby Eggplant with Toasted Almonds

12-14 baby eggplants, halved lengthwise                                            
1 cup extra virgin olive oil                                                                 
Zest and juice 1 lemon                                                                      
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar                                                       
3 cloves garlic, minced                                                                      
½ cup chopped blanched almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon raw sugar (optional)
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons fresh mint, torn

Preheat 450F. Place eggplants cut side up in pan and brush lightly with oil.  Bake 8-10 minutes until golden, turning once halfway through cooking process. To test if the eggplant is cooked, poke with a fork.  It should easily go through.

Put remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place the hot eggplant in the bowl and pour the marinade over it, turning once or twice. Sprinkle with mint and serve at warm or at room temperature.

I'm always asked in my cooking classes which type of eggplant I prefer. For this recipe, I used Indian baby eggplant.  You can also use the Italian eggplant or Chinese eggplant.  They are sweeter, and have less seeds than the large eggplants. You don't need to soak them in salt, or remove the peel.

It's important for any eggplant recipe that it's seasoned and cooked properly, if not it will taste like a sponge. If you season this dish properly and allow the oven to take care of the roasting, then all you need to do is prepare the marinade and mix it all together.  This recipe is best served warm with toasted pita bread.

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