1 small eggplant (preferably Italian), about 450g , skin pierced
1 small clove garlic, chopped
About 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
About 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the whole eggplant directly on an open flame – on a stove burner or grill (or in a pinch you could char the eggplant under a hot broiler). Cook until the first side is blackened, about 5 minutes. Turn the eggplant over about a quarter of the way and char the next side, about 5 minutes. Continue turning and charring the eggplant (the last two sides will go more quickly) until it is charred on all sides and the eggplant is soft. Carefully transfer the eggplant to a bowl to cool slightly. Remove and discard the stem.
For a dark intense puree, don’t peel the eggplant; for a lighter colored, milder puree, peel away and discard some of the charred skin. Add the eggplant and garlic to a food processor or blender and pulse, adding 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil and the extra-virgin oil to smooth the mixture. Transfer the puree to a bowl and season with the vinegar, salt, and enough additional neutral oil to make the puree silky tasting. (The puree can be made several hours ahead. If you refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature before serving.)
Note: This eggplant puree is very versatile. Use it to dress fresh tomatoes as a first course, as a starting point for crostini and sandwiches, and as an accompaniment to all kinds of grilled and roasted meats and fish.