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Eggplant Tiramisu and the Perils of Cotton Candy

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As molten chocolate cake was to France and the 90′s, tiramisu was to Italy and the late 80′s. Tiramisu got so huge that Japan was importing 140 tons of mascarpone cheese per year in 1991 to supply its tiramisu jones, and they even had a canned tiramisu drink. I’m a lover of desserts that fall into and then out of fashion (see: Molten Beet Cake) so it seemed obvious to me that tiramisu was going to be my next dish. And voila, after a lot of work, here it is: Roasted Eggplant Tiramisu with Rosemary Cotton Candy.

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Every dessert at Dirt Candy is based on a vegetable (I don’t know anywhere else that does this, and it’s easy to see why – this is hard!) and I had reached a point in my life when I wanted to try to do something with eggplant. It’s a soft vegetable, it’s not green and it has a little bit of sweetness to it so it seemed like an easy conversion. It wasn’t. The idea of doing eggplant tiramisu came easy. I love taking classic desserts and turning them into vegetable flavor bombs, and I was a big fan of tiramisu as a kid. But eggplant…I couldn’t even find the flavor. When you eat, say, eggplant parmesan you’re tasting the sauce and the cheese. With baba ghanoush it’s the char you get from roasting the eggplant and the tahini. But plain eggplant? It’s tough. So I decided that however this happened, I’d have to use grilled eggplant to get that classic, smoky, grilled flavor most associated with eggplant.

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How much grilled eggplant we have to use blows my mind, though. For 30 servings of tiramisu, I grill 20 pounds of eggplant. There’s slightly under a pound of eggplant in every piece!

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For all that, people say the taste of eggplant is subtle. But I tell them to try to taste it in the mascarpone cheese first. Once their taste buds find it there they start to feel the smokiness of the eggplant fill their skull until by the end of the piece of tiramisu, their head has been transformed into a giant eggplant.

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I also wanted to make cotton candy. This has made my husband hate me, because I had to buy a giant cotton candy machine and then I set it up at home to experiment with. It took up half our kitchen as we tried to lead our lives around it and as I experimented with herbal oils, fruit powders, dehydrated vegetables, anything to get flavor into cotton candy. I wanted to get eggplant flavor into it at first, but no matter how much I reduced, dehydrated and ground eggplant I couldn’t make it work. Finally I settled on doing something herbal and decided that rosemary, which has a clean flavor, wouldn’t compete too much or clash with the eggplant.

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At first the cotton candy was listed on the menu as part of the dish but too many people were ordering the dessert for the cotton candy alone and leaving their tiramisu behind. I changed the menu so it didn’t mention the cotton candy and now people are sucking up the eggplant tiramisu like there’s no tomorrow.

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And, of course, there are eggplant chips on top because this is Dirt Candy. We have to fry something!

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What has this taught me? Never underestimate the popularity and power of cotton candy.

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Also, never underestimate the size of cotton candy machines.
This monster takes up my entire kitchen.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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