Your new favorite summer hors d ‘oeuvres is here. Yes, as the outdoor entertaining season approaches, we want to get as much done in the kitchen as we can before our guests arrive. That way we can have more fun with them outside! I know this combination sounds odd, but believe me – you have to try it.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip cookies . So here’s another use for Tahini beyond the hummus and cookie idea. Chinese eggplants work best but really any eggplant will do. I like this recipe as it is different than most hors d ‘oeuvres. The eggplant is flavorful with a crispy skin outside and a moist center that is only heightened by the tart, sweet, sharp taste of the tahini and goat cheese flavored topping.

So versatile! Instead of paprika or in addition to the paprika, try adding some cayenne and/or garlic powder to the olive oil before rubbing it onto the eggplant. You can also change up the herb in the topping from oregano to fresh thyme or rosemary. Maybe even add some roasted garlic to the mix. Try sautéing a small onion with some chopped Thai chilies and adding that to the mixture. So many variations limited only by your imagination.

The combination of flavors makes your mouth sing – no really! Even if folks don’t like eggplant, they will like this. Even if folks don’t like goat cheese, they will like this. Even if … well you get the idea. How do I know? Well I’ve done it for various audiences across the GTA/York/Durham/Mississauga areas when I do my PC Cooking School “What’s for Dinner” classes. I’ve had people actually come up to me after the class and say – “I don’t like… but this was really good! “

So you need to try this easy to make hors d ‘oeuvre! Make a small batch for yourself of the dip alone and you will become a convert. Make the eggplant alone and you will soon discover it can be a great side dish with some fish or meat or even pure vegetarian with a chickpea salad. The high heat and quick baking time is what makes the skin crispy and the inside stay firm. As always – enjoy!

2 medium Japanese eggplants, sliced crosswise 1⁄2″ thick – it needs to be this thick or the eggplant will collapse as it bakes – still delicious, but not as a finger hors d ‘oeuvre, more like baba ghanoush
¼ – ½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cayenne powder – or more if you like  and/or ¼ tsp smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. goat cheese, softened
1⁄4 cup tahini – make sure you stir this well, the best stuff is all at the bottom
1 1⁄2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. honey or to taste – this means make it tasty, remember, if it doesn’t taste good, it won’t be good
2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted or slivered almonds toasted and chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped oregano or thyme, rosemary or basil

Heat oven to 425°f
Place eggplant in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet
Combine oil, paprika and cayenne in a bowl – stir to mix well
Using a silicone brush, cover the surface of the eggplant – both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper – I say silicone as it doesn’t transfer taste/odor as a bristle brush does – save the bristle brushes for your delicate pastries i.e. egg wash
Bake for about 20 minutes – eggplants should be colored nicely and firm but cooked to the touch – do not over bake as they will turn soft and mushy
Combine cheese, tahini, juice, honey, herb(s) and nuts in a bowl – mix well – thin with a little warm water if necessary, 1–2 tbsp. only
Top each round with 1-2 tsp. cheese mixture – serve

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