eggplant

Steven gave me Yotham Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Jerusalem as a sort of date-night surprise gift. I’m psyched about it since his previous book, Plenty, was a total success at home. We cooked most of the recipes from the first with hardly any failures. I’m just starting in on Jerusalem but have high hopes.

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

In both books eggplant-related recipes shine. I love eggplant. Have you tried Ottolenghi’s incredible roasted eggplant with pomegranate molasses from Plenty? That one in particular is amazing. But I’m a restless chef and thus I always look for new approaches for my beloved aubergine. This caught my attention because here Ottolenghi takes a classic and adds a little twist—Greek yogurt. The yogurt lends extra creaminess to the dish plus a bit of a mild tart flavor. Exciting!

I am really looking forward to exploring Jerusalem over the next weeks and months.

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

2 large eggplants
2 tbsp Greek Yogurt
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Pomegranate seeds

Put eggplant in a shallow baking pan and broil until they collapse and the skin is blackened/burned—about a half hour or so. Remove from oven and let cool. Using a fork remove the flesh and transfer to a colander so juices can drain.

Place eggplant flesh in a bowl, add fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently mix with a fork to slightly mash it. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve as a side dish (we had ours with fish & caper kebabs) or as an appetizer with pita bread.

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Sometimes I like being told what to do—not too often mind you, so don’t get the wrong idea! But once in a while when I’m lacking the proper kitchen inspiration, it is nice to get helpful instruction. That happened the other day with this eggplant recipe. We were having a group of friends over and needed some sort of appetizer. Hegui whipped out Yotam Ottolenghi and was on a roll. I had nothing. So sad! Fortunately he had enough enthusiasm for the both of us. He “suggested” that I try the “burnt eggplant with tahini” recipe from Plenty. Well, yum!

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

Sort of like babaganoush on steroids, this has the exciting addition of pomegranate molasses, which I’d not had before. It is so delightfully tart. Mmmm. That plus cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds for garnish really make this recipe pop. Part salad, part dip, and very festive looking; you’ll be happy that you spouse demanded that you make this one.

roasted eggplant with tahini and pomegranate party dip

1 large Italian eggplant
1/3 cup tahini
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
juice from half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste
12 cherry tomatoes in halves
half an English cucumber, cut in quarters the long way then sliced thinly
½ cup pomegranate seeds
olive oil to finish

Roast whole eggplant on grill at highest temperature for about thirty minutes, turning occasionally, until it shrinks. Remove from heat, let cool then peel. Discard skin and stem. Tear flesh with a fork. It will have some residual juice (or at least mine did). Use this instead of water to thin the dish.

Add tahini, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and black pepper to eggplant. Mix thoroughly. Fold in cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Place in a serving dish. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with bread or crackers as an appetizer or as a side.

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This recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme’s incredible cookbook, Louisiana Cooking. When I lived in Dallas in the nineties, I frequently used this book. I was especially partial to his panéed chicken and fettucini, spice-coated deep fried chicken thighs over a rich and spicy cream sauce with pasta. The dish blew my socks off.

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Everything in the book has butter, fat, lots of oil and usually something gets fried. Plus there’re tons of thrilling Cajun spices thrown in the mix. This is food for the young. You need to be in good health with a fast metabolism to survive it unscathed, at least if you’re dining this way on a regular basis. Otherwise, these succulent recipes fall into my once-in-a-blue-moon culinary category.

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

Actually, I haven’t cooked from this book in about ten years. When I‘d first met Hegui, I wanted to show off a bit by making an eggplant recipe found in these magical pages. It was sort of like today’s dish: deep fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp. We were in New York then, and it was late July during a heat wave. Only one room of my apartment had air conditioning. So I turned it on full blast, moved the dining table and chairs into the bedroom, and slaved away for a while in the really hot kitchen. I plated everything and it looked perfect! The only problem was the level of spice. Then Hegui didn’t appreciate spicy food at all. I loved (and still love) it. But I think that I made some sort of mistake somewhere along the line. This dish, like the weather, was impossible: way, way too hot. Neither of us could tolerate it. What a disaster!

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

So I’ve been thinking of that dinner from long ago, wondering about trying again. There are several recipes for stuffed eggplant in Louisiana Cooking. This one with crab and shrimp, called Eggplant Bayou Teche, I don’t think is the same as that one I made before. But like all Prudhomme recipes, it requires lots of oil, shellfish, butter, spices, and the eggplant, of course, gets deep fried. So this is really good and really filling.

I mis-read the directions so failed to peel the eggplant. I don’t think that was such a problem. I used only one pound of shrimp, instead of the recommended 1½ lbs. Also, I had two large eggplants. I think that turned into a lot of food in a single serving, since you really need to give each diner an entire “eggplant canoe” at the table for it to look right. Next time, I’m going to use smaller eggplant and more of them. You’re supposed to add one teaspoon of garlic powder to the spice mix, but I didn’t have any so left it out. I needed more breadcrumbs than recommended, ran out of the spice mix and made my own seafood stock with the shells from the shrimp, the juice from the container of lump crab meat, half an onion and two celery stalks.

We had ours with black beans and rice. There were lots of leftovers.

preparing the eggplant canoe

preparing the eggplant canoe

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

3 medium eggplant
½ onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil plus more to fry eggplant
1 cup flour
1½ cups seafood stock
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
¾ cup soy milk
1 large egg
6 tbsp unsalted butter
½ pound lump crab meat
1 pound shrimp
½ cup finely chopped green onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Pastis or similar anise flavored alcohol

For the spice mix:

4½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp white pepper
1½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried basil

Remove woody parts of eggplant, (peel if you wish), cut in halves the long way. Carefully remove the interior of the eggplant so that there is about a quarter inch shell. I used a paring knife and scooped it out with a spoon. Use removed eggplant for another dish. Wrap eggplant shells tightly and refrigerate.
Mix all spice ingredients together and set aside.

In another bowl, mix chopped onion, celery and green pepper together. Set aside.

To make the sauce:

Start by making a roux. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup oil on high heat. Cook until it begins to smoke. Then slowly mix in ¼ cup flour. Stir with a wire whisk for several minutes until the roux becomes medium brown in color. Remove from heat, and stir in the chopped veggies and 1½ tsp of the spice mix. Set aside.

In another saucepan, bring seafood stock to boil. Gradually stir in the roux. Cook on high heat for about five minutes, then simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat and strain the sauce into a bowl. Set aside. Discard the veggies.

To prepare the eggplant boats:

Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add milk and 1 tbsp spice mix. In another bowl, add remaining flour and 1 tbsp spice mix. In a third add breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp spice mix. Heat enough oil in a deep skillet to submerge the eggplant at least half way. Unwrap each eggplant. Rub each with about ½ to ¾ tsp spice mix. Dredge in flour mixture, then milk mixture and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Fry until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Repeat with all eggplant halves.

To prepare seafood fillings:

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium pan. Add crab meat, half of the green onion, the garlic and ¼ tsp spice mix. Cook for a couple minutes then set aside.

Melt remaining butter in a medium pan. Add shrimp, remaining green onion, 1½ tsp spice mix and cook for a minute. Add reserved sauce and Pastis. Cook until shrimp turn pink.

To serve:

Place eggplant boats on a large heated tray or dish, or you can make individual plates. Fill them first with the crab meat, then with the shrimp and sauce. Enjoy!

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I can’t think of a vegetable that is as versatile for so many different cuisines as eggplant. We’ve made it in so many delicious ways: Kashmiri, Szechuan, North African, Macedonian, Italian, Lebanese; and that’s just scratching the surface.

grilled Chinese eggplant in teriyaki sauce

grilled Chinese eggplant in teriyaki sauce

This dish is inspired by Japan. I made the teriyaki sauce myself since I wanted better control over the amount of sugar. The result is sweet, salty, tart, toasty, spicy and yummy.

grilled Chinese eggplant in teriyaki sauce

 

4 Chinese eggplants, woody ends removed, cut into ¼ inch thick, long slices
Kosher salt

For teriyaki sauce:

½ cup sauvignon blanc
½ cup shoyu (soy sauce)
2 garlic cloves minced
1½ tsps fresh grated ginger
3 tbsps canola oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsps rice wine vinegar
3 tbsps sugar

Place sliced eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with some salt and let it sweat for 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry using a paper towel.

Pre heat grill to high temperature.

Mix all teriyaki ingredients together. Brush eggplant pieces with teriyaki sauce. Grill them for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a bowl. Add more of the teriyaki sauce, cover with plastic and let it finish cooking in the steam. Serve warm or at room temp.

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We’ve been following Devaki’s eclectic, always satisfying, food blog, Weave a Thousand Flavors, for a while now. Like us, she takes a multinational approach to food. Her recipes come from everywhere, so you will always find something that suits your palate. If you haven’t been already, we highly recommend her site. Click here to check it out.

rigatoni alla Norma alla Devaki

rigatoni alla Norma alla Devaki

The other week she published a Sicilian recipe, Pasta alla Norma, which calls for a cheese with which I was unfamiliar: ricotta salata. That caught my attention, as I like to try new things. Actually, Devaki makes a wry comment in her story about this cheese in particular, not to be confused with America’s darling Italian cheese, parmesan.

Anyway, when I mentioned it to Steven, he vaguely remembered having it sometime in the distant past. Neither of us really had much recollection. All the better!

Another plus for this recipe seemed to be its ease of preparation. Perfect for mid-week fatigue when you’re tired, hungry, want to eat something delicious without much wait or fuss.

We had pretty much everything at home already, except for the ricotta salata. Easily fixed at our local Whole Paycheck.

First thing, I tried the cheese. Devaki was right in her description. Ricotta salata does taste like a mild version of feta, goat cheese or a ricotta or farmers cheese: fresh nutty and slightly salty flavors with a sort of mealy/crumbly texture. In my oh-so humble opinion it is tastier than regular ricotta or farmer’s cheese.

I had to make some changes from her recipe to accommodate what we had on hand. Steven had roasted some fresh tomatoes the day before, so I used these with canned. I like a lot of tomato. Also I used rigatoni instead of the original maccheroni or the strozzapreti that Devaki had. It came out just as deliciously as she described in her post!

I am going to cook it for our Sicilian friend, Fabiola, sometime. She’s from Catania, Bellini’s birthplace. I want to hear what she knows about the connection between the dish, the opera, Norma, and Bellini. I think it’ll be a fun dinner!

rigatoni alla Norma alla Devaki

1 lb rigatoni
2 medium eggplant
½ lb ricotta salata, crumbled
15 roasted tomatoes, recipe here
5 fresh basil leaves, shredded just before serving
5 garlic cloves minced
1 white onion chopped into small cubes
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp black pepper
olive oil for brushing eggplant
3 tbsp olive oil for sauce
Kosher salt

Cut eggplants into ¾ inch pieces. Place them in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let sweat for ½ hour. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towels.

Pre-heat oven to 450F towards end of the sweat.

Brush eggplant liberally with olive oil on both sides and lay them single layer on a tray lined with parchment pepper. Roast eggplant for about 10-14 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Remove from oven, let cool, then cut into strips. Set aside.

To prepare the sauce, sauté onion in a few tablespoons olive oil and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook a minute more just until aromatic. Add roasted and crushed tomatoes, peppers and salt. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile cook pasta al dente per package instructions. Drain, add to the tomato sauce with half of the eggplant and cheese. Toss to combine. Add remaining eggplant, cheese and bits of basil to the top and voilá you have a simple, delicious and elegant dish that will leave you agog!

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eggplant kuku

by Stevie on January 27, 2011

My parents were in town over the weekend. They live way across the Country in Virginia, so a visit is a welcome treat. This was a working trip as they’re paying for us to have our kitchen remodeled. That is incredibly generous!

eggplant kuku

eggplant kuku

We didn’t have time for sightseeing as we spent most of it planning for the new kitchen, ordering things, negotiating bids, etc. I had no idea how tremendously stressful changing the kitchen could actually be! My folks are pros and are very excited about the project! My father keeps reminding me that this will be his “sixth kitchen.” The first two he remodeled himself. He tries to reassure me that “next time” I won’t have any problems arranging things on my own. I’m still far from convinced on that, and pray that this will be my first and only kitchen remodel.

That said, we planned an extra special dinner in their honor. Hegui made his classic quinoa love. I bought an aged magnum of Châteauneuf du Pape, we invited several friends, we had a big leafy salad and we even grilled steak for the meat eaters in the family. I made this eggplant kuku as a side for the meal.

I’d never made or even heard about kukus before. There are lots of recipes for them in my new favorite cookbook, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij. To me, they seem sort of like elaborate omelets or perhaps quiche without crust. I used a lot more oil than was recommended in the book to cook the eggplant, which makes this a bit naughty. But what could I do? Eggplant is always so thirsty for olive oil. The dish turned out to have a wonderful, subtle flavor and seemed a big success at the party.

eggplant kuku

2 large eggplant
¾ cup olive oil or butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 eggs
4 tbsp chopped parsley
¼ tsp saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp warm water
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp and 1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Peel eggplant and cut each into about five slices lengthwise. Retain some of the eggplant peel to make simple decorations on top of the kuku. (I soaked the peel with the eggplant and while I pan-fried the flesh, I trimmed the peel into more uniform strips.) Soak eggplant in water with 2 tbsp salt for about twenty minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a large skillet, fry eggplant slices in about “¼ cup” olive oil until they soften and become golden brown. I did this in two batches. Remove to a large bowl and mash. Sauté onion and garlic in same pan until slightly browned. Add to mashed eggplant.

Pour ¼ cup olive oil in round baking dish and let heat in oven.

In another bowl, beat eggs then mix in parsley, saffron, limejuice, baking powder, flour, 1 tsp salt and black pepper. Pour eggplant vegetable mix into eggs and fold together well. Pour into hot baking dish. Carefully place retained eggplant peel over top in a decorative way.

Bake uncovered for thirty minutes. Pour remaining ¼ cup olive oil over eggplant. Bake another thirty minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Serve and enjoy!

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oven roasted eggplant with Indian spices

This is another recipe from Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India. I made it the same evening that I served mustard sauce masala over black cod.

The dish reminds me of Macedonian pindzur with different spices. I wonder how Alecs would like it? How’re you doing back in New York, boys? We miss you!

Like pindzur, this is a kind of eggplant dip. You can serve it with any kind of bread as an appetizer or as a side dish with Indian food (like I did) or simply with rice.

oven roasted eggplant with Indian spices

10 baby Italian eggplants (about 2½ lbs)
4 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated fine
1 Serrano chile, minced, seeds and ribs partially removed
2 sweet white onions, chopped
10 ripe dry farmed early girl tomatoes, skin removed and chopped with their juices
2 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tbsp coriander seeds, pan roasted then ground
2 tbsp cumin seeds, pan roasted then ground
Kosher salt
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Broil eggplants in the oven for about half hour turning every 5 minutes. A sign that they are ready is when skins are partially burned, blistered and eggplants have shrunk and collapsed a bit. Remove from oven. Let them cool down until you can comfortable handle them. Remove skin and roughly mash eggplants with a fork.

Using a deep pan heat up canola oil. Add ginger, chile pepper and sauté for a few seconds. Add onion and cook for about 12 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Fold in turmeric, cayenne, coriander and salt. Add eggplant, olive oil then cook for another 10 minutes at low temperature. Taste and adjust flavors. Add cilantro and serve!

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Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

I made this sandwich last week because I wanted to use tempeh in a different way than deep-fried with Seventies brown sauce or with Southeast Asian flavors. Not sure whether it was going to taste good, this was what turned out to be a successful experiment. I love tempeh, so I’m thrilled with the results. This is a breeze to make; it’s very tasty and nutritious, too. Just give it a try!

some key ingredients for Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

Mediterranean inspired tempeh sandwich

1 square block of tempeh, sliced horizontally to form large thin “patties”
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt
1 square roasted garlic/parmesan flavored Ciabatta, sliced horizontally to form a sandwich shape, inner part toasted in the oven
½ ripe Hass avocado
1 zucchini, sliced thin
½ eggplant, sliced thin
Slices of ripe heirloom tomato
1 red bell pepper
Handful of mache greens
3 tbsp sundried tomato pesto
3 tbsp goat cheese (Chavrie)
Juice from a couple of Mexican limes
Black pepper
Jalapeño slices en escabeche (optional)

Turn oven to 435F and roast red bell pepper until blackened and about to collapse. Remove from oven, transfer to a paper bag and let it cool down for about 15 minutes. The paper bag sweat will help you remove the skin form the pepper. Peel skin away then discard ribs and seeds. Lay on a paper towel to drain.

some refreshing vinhos verdes

Toss zucchini and eggplant with a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil. Grease a large pan with olive oil. Lay thin slices of eggplant and zucchini on. Bake/Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from oven and let cool down.

Using a skillet pan-fry tempeh for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
Toast Ciabatta.

To assemble the sandwich:

Spread goat cheese on one side of bread and sundried tomato pesto on the other side. Pile a slice of tempeh, avocado, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, roasted red pepper, mache, jalapeño on bread. Sprinkle with black pepper and a squirt of Mexican lime juice. Top with the other half of the bread. Using a bread knife cut sandwich in a triangular shape. Serve.

We had this sandwich with two refreshing Portuguese Vinhos Verdes. The first was 2008 Quinta da Aveleda and the second one was 2006 Trajarinho. Both were a bit effervescent and dry with aromas of peach, apricot and minerals.

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Kashmiri eggplant

June 1, 2010

I am enchanted with the Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India cookbook by Lachu Moorjani. I’ve been really engrossed by it since discovering it at Viks Chaat Corner on our food excursion to Berkeley a few weeks ago. It caught my attention because it was the only book for sale at that place. That might normally […]

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roasted eggplant antipasto

April 27, 2010

I adore eggplant though the first time I ever tried to prepare it, it was a disaster. I was in college and tried to make a baked eggplant casserole. Somehow it turned out a shocking gray color and tasted dreadfully! I think that I didn’t know the trick of pre-treating cut eggplant with salt back […]

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