Tuscan Eggplant Pesto

This pesto can be tossed with pasta for a main course or spread on crostini for appetizers.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional for sprinkling the eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil plus additional for brushing the eggplant
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces Pecorino cheese, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups walnuts, chopped
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

METHOD:

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle the eggplant slices on both sides with the additional salt; let them drain upright in a colander for 30 minutes, and pat them dry with paper towels. Arrange one layer of the eggplant on an oiled rack of a broiler pan, brush it with the additional oil, and broil it under a preheated broiler about 4 inches from the heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is golden. Turn the eggplant, brush it with the additional oil, and broil it for 3 to 4 minutes more, or until it is golden. Transfer the eggplant slices to a large platter; let them cool, and broil the remaining eggplant slices in the same manner.

In a skillet cook the onions and 3/4 of the minced garlic in the remaining 1/4 cup oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the onions are softened and golden. Transfer the onion mixture to a food processor and puree it with the eggplant, the remaining garlic, Pecorino, walnuts, basil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and vinegar.

The pesto keeps, covered and chilled, for 2 weeks.

YIELD: Makes about 2 cups.

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