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28 April 2008

eggplant

eggplants

I spent at least an hour this morning, photographing eggplants.

Ah, the joys of a day off, after feeling so pressed last week. After writing that piece on Thursday, my mind has eased, my muscles slowed down. Having felt so shaky, I wondered if I should publish it. But I remembered again what my Buddhist teachers helped me to see: true warriorship is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. So the fact the piece exists is its own reward. Your kind-hearted comments and compassionate letters helped too. I never expected such an outpouring, and I thank you. Writing is an act of catharsis, a release of its own kind. Having a few days to breathe is another.

And pregnancy hormones really do have a swarming-like-a-hive-of-angry-bees effect sometimes. There are moments when I feel Little Bean kick at me, and it's as though my entire stomach is dropping down into my body. I stand there, and gasp, and hold my belly for a moment. Those are the times I remember -- pregnancy is hard work. When I impose my old order on this new world, that's when the hormones take over.

Much better to give over part of a morning to photographing eggplants.

The Chef was in the kitchen, roasting potatoes and whistling away. Outside, the light played like a small child on the grass. Sprightly and laughing, sunlight spilled over all of us. Lambent. Luminous. Leaping. I had no choice but to grab the camera, to capture the white pear blossoms dancing against the sky, the frail chives still alive after the long winter. And two Japanese eggplants the Chef and I had bought at Uwajimaya a few days ago.

I never did capture them the way I imagined, but that's fine. Just the sight of those lustrous purple skins was enough to make me smile.

So did imagining bowls of smoky eggplant raita, the spicy moussaka I learned years ago from the Moosewook cookbook, silky baba ganoush, and of course, ratatouille. (A dish made even more famous by the cartoon movie with the rat, which we already know we want to buy for Little Bean someday.) As I tried to make the light play with the eggplant nicely, I could almost taste heaping spoonfuls of warm eggplant parmigiana: thick slices of tender eggplant sauteed in good olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and handfuls of basil, soaked in plum tomato sauce, and covered in breadcrumbs (gluten-free, of course).

"Honey, when is breakfast going to be ready?" I called out, suddenly hungry.

But there are so many more possibilities with eggplant. Tomorrow, I think I'll finally use these beauties, on the grill.

(We finally set up the barbeque! After writing about how much the pieces strewn across the kitchen bothered me, we just sat down and finished it. It may have been nearly dark when the entire contraption sat on our grass, and we may not have eaten our barbequed t-bone and asparagus until nearly 10 pm, but no matter. It's finally done, in working order.)

I'm imagining a marinade of tamari, honey, rice vinegar, and ginger. (That, of course, after I salt the eggplants and let them sit, then squeeze the water out and pat them dry. It turns out that step really does matter. I used to skip it before. No more.) We'll let you know how it tastes.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear: what are you imagining with eggplants?

46 Comments:

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Lisa said...

I hate to admit that eggplant is a "blech" for me. I think it's the texture; that, coupled with the bland flavor. Then, some good eggplant parmesan is nice, but that seems adulterous for a nice vegetable.

Sorry! :)

 
At 4:38 AM, Blogger CatherineMarie said...

Moussaka the way we did it in Cairo, with yogurt, not bechamel for the topping.

And no potatoes in moussaka! Heresy! Just eggplant, tomato, onion, spices and yogurt. Served with rice.

 
At 4:48 AM, Blogger Shirley said...

You sound wonderful today! I am so glad. I want to try eggplant lasagna, where the slices of eggplant take the place of the pasta. Enjoy your combinations and your grill!

 
At 5:03 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

So glad to see your spirits are better and you have recaptured the wisdom! I gotta sit this one out, just like the beets. There are less than 5 foods that I just can't bring myself to liking, beets, eggplant, blue cheese (I know, so sad) and most preperations of cooked eggs. It is 28 degrees here today in MN and my impatients about waiting for the spring harvest is out of control. It got so bad this morning that I actually purchased corn on the cob at the grocery store. I am going to make a roasted corn soup and pretend it is August.

 
At 5:22 AM, Anonymous Mindy said...

"When I impose my old order on this new world, that's when the hormones take over." What a lovely line that I need to remember. I'm 17 weeks pregnant now and starting to feel good. I told my sis-in-law the other day I just kept waiting to feel normal again & she said this is your new normal. I already have 2 kids. You would think I'd remember that life becomes new after each one & even before the birth during pregnancy. Thanks for the beautiful way that you put things!

 
At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Lauren Smith said...

fried eggplant "wings" mmm I had them at this sweet little restaurant called Lateeda here in Buffalo, NY. Amazing! Taste os buffalo wings without the meat. sooo good, succulent, crunchy smooth, delicious...done.

 
At 5:50 AM, Anonymous glutenfreeforgood said...

Eggplant? What eggplant?

I got caught up smiling about your "swarming-like-a-hive-of-angry-bees" description of your pregnancy hormones! That was a PERFECT simile, one in which women can use for all kinds of hormone ups and downs. I love it.

Oh, and eggplant? Yea, I love eggplant, too. And the photo was worth the hour you spent taking it! Beautiful.

I'm SO happy for you. You are on a magical journey, enjoy every second of it. Those little beans grow up fast!

Melissa
xo

 
At 6:08 AM, Blogger MLP said...

I just made eggplant last night. It was wonderful fried and put into a red sauce over spaghetti. I didn't have paper towels in the house to press out the water after letting them salt, so it soaked up a little more oil then I would like, but the dish still tasted fabulous.

 
At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amazing how you post right after I've eaten something or craved it.

Last night I ate "Imam Bayildi" (which means the Imam fainted) from Turquoise, a Turkish restaurant in Boca Raton, FL. The menu states it's baked eggplant with sauteed sweet onion, sweet peppers, pine nuts and currants. It was delicious in a tomato base

There are a few recipes online

 
At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmmm . . . eggplant . . . I'm the only one in my household who really appreciates it! My mom, my [late]Nana and I used to make big trays of eggplant parmagiana. Now I will have to learn a gluten free recipe. Of course, until my lactose intoloerance settles down [hopefully] I will do without the cheese . . . *sigh* . . . I could make a marinara with some fresh sauteed eggplant . . . Oh the possibilites . . . thank you for this site! It has given me hope!

 
At 6:35 AM, Blogger jenA said...

fried eggplant. skipping the old all-purpose fry-batter mix, of course - but rolled in egg wash, then tapioca starch, then fine cornmeal. fry it till it floats golden, and serve with marinara.
grilled eggplant with basil, dried or roasted tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella melted on top (or between, for a good sammie).
eggplant lasagna.

 
At 7:11 AM, Blogger Kitchen Vixen said...

Can you tell me, is rice vinegar the same thing as rice wine vinegar?

 
At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Lauren said...

I just made a Baked "Fried" Eggplant in the oven the panko bread crumbs with garlic and when done sprinkled with a bit of cheese and dipped in marinara sauce. Hey did you see that Corn Chex are now Gluten Free.

 
At 7:36 AM, Blogger jennsquared said...

I once had this eggplant manicotti - the eggplant was hte "noodle" part. The cheese filling was light and refreshing, not heavy like traditional manicotti at all! LOVE IT! But I haven't had a chance to recreate it though...

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger rebelgirl7 said...

I recently had a thai green curry that had fire roasted eggplant in it. Delicious!

 
At 8:47 AM, Anonymous yelda said...

I love eggplant, and moussaka is one of my favorite dishes. You can find the recipe here:
http://yelda.remgo.com/eggplant-moussaka/

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Leora said...

Japanese eggplant is fantastic just sliced into 1/2 inch or larger rounds and browned in olive oil. Then add 1T tamari and 1T balsamic vinger to the cooked eggplant in the pan and let the eggplant soak up the 'sauce'. Serve it with Japanese sticky rice and local Tacoma Tofu (soft), sliced into squares. The tofu is wonderful with a fresh grated ginger, tamari, and rice wine vinger, and mirin sauce.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Courtney said...

I love eggplant fried and then broiled with white miso on top! I totally know the name of it but am drawing a blank...

I also love baked eggplant parmagiana, and pasta alla Norma, and baba ghanoush (FAT DADDY!) and moussaka. I had some at a mezze place in London that was so good...it tasted like it had cinnamon in it! Is that typical?

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roast olive-oil drizzled slices of eggplant and polenta (pretty sure you can get this gluten-free), and portabellos. Sprinkle with mozzarella and romano (or other cheeses of your choice) and put back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Stack slices, with spoonfuls of homemade marinara in between each slice. Eggplant, polenta, portabello, eggplant, poletna. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

 
At 1:00 PM, Anonymous laura said...

I just read this and your other post. Shauna, your posts are always filled with so much...we get the personal, the professional, the food, the pictures and a peek into your life...in every single post. That's huge feat. You could disappear for a month and never lose a reader...we'd just be wondering what you were up to and waiting for the update whenever it came. I hope you take it easy on yourself now and when the baby comes...I know I'll be OK with just a picture of the baby and a "more later" title!

Eggplant and I do not have the best relationship, but it's not for lack of trying...maybe we need counseling of some sort. :)

 
At 1:02 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

You know me and Eggplant Bhartha- the Indian dish with peas, onions and tomato- and garam masala, of course- It's true love! I prefer to roast Asian Bride, or Chinese eggplants for all eggplant dishes because they are sweeter.

Here is the link for the recipe:
http://vegetarianrecipes.cookingcache.com/recipes/baiganbhartha.shtml

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

eggplant, red pepper, red onion, few garlic cloves all chunked and drenched in olive oil and roasted in the oven. Mash with potatoe masher and mix in a few Tablespoons of tomato paste...heaven as a dip or a spread. Or grilled eggplant parm with lots of basil and fresh mozz.
OK...Im getting hungry!

 
At 1:48 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

For some odd reason my eggplant bharta recipe link got cut off like an eggplant stem.

Here it is again:
http://vegetarianrecipes.cookingcache.com/recipes/baiganbhartha.shtml

You'll have to copy and paste it into your browser.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger Porkchop said...

i think of eggplanty food as comfort food. i rarely order it out because i don't like it underdone (too chewy), but have 3 favorite eggplant home cooking dishes:
1) karniyarik: a turkish stuffed eggplant--the smallest eggplant possible, peeled in alternating strips, if that makes sense...cut a slit down the middle. the eggplant gets sauteed in oil until mostly soft. then fill with ground beef sauteed with onions, red and green peppers, fresh parsley, and chopped tomatoes have had the seeds and juice scooped out (reserve). place in a saute pan, scooped side up, and top with the reserved tomato innards, more tomatoes if necessary. cover and let cook until soft and cooked through. you want the eggplant to retain its shape but fall apart easily as you cut into it. top with warmed yogurt mixed with pressed garlic cloves (to taste). this is a real home cooking kind of
2) pasta alla norma, or the made up verion that i make at home. eggplant cut up into chunks, sauteed in olive oil until almost falling apart....add a can of san marzano tomatoes, again cut up into chunks, with juices, a couple of handfuls of fresh basil, and cook down until most of the juice is cooked off and the eggplant is falling apart. toss with fresh pasta, and top with fresh ricotta cheese, and more shredded basil.
3) patlican salatasi or eggplant salad--another turkish speciality, basically baba ghanoush without tahini, where the eggplant are roasted or grilled, scooped (the work comes in the scooping, because it's important to squeeze out the extra water from the eggplant and filter out most of hte seeds...sorry. i've tried to skip this step and it's a disaster.) and blended with garlic, lemon juice, and mayo. creamy and divine.

 
At 4:03 PM, Blogger Cher said...

I second the recommendation for imam bayaldi: I find it darned near impossible to make anything else with eggplants because I love this dish so much.
I do a simplified version that's just layers of eggplant, basil, garlic, tomatoes, and gruyere. If you're making it with fresh tomatoes, use a bit of smoked salt. Otherwise, use Muir Glen Fire Roasted.
Delishus.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Vincci said...

I just made eggplant parmigiana for the first time about a week ago and it was so simple and so yummy. I can't wait to try it again.

Although I don't know how to make it, I do have a weakness for Chinese eggplant dishes, like stuffed eggplant or eggplant in plum sauce or whatever and I can't wait to order/learn how to make some of those in the near future!

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Hilary Winfield - Abstract Artist said...

I love eggplant parmesan! And I would love to know your gluten-free recipe.

By the way, thank you so much for your beautiful, inspiring blog. You're a gift!

 
At 5:48 PM, Anonymous alison said...

I like thinly sliced, olive-oil roasted eggplant on pizza with goat cheese and fresh basil!

 
At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Sho said...

I will be making baked eggplant slices with goat cheese, but I would really love a recipe for the Chinese eggplant with plum sauce.

In addition to the baba ganoush, I really like the kosher vegetarian mock chopped liver that is made with eggplant. Sabra Salads makes the best one and they make the best baba ganoush. I have not had it in years, so I am not sure if it is GF. (I also like the mock chopped liver that is made with lentils, but that is for another post. Did you do a lentil post yet? Man, motherhood makes me tired.)

I have this problem with timing my eggplant dishes. I tend to overcook, and then it comes out mushy. Then if I undercook, it is hard. Is there a trick for getting it just right?

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger amanda said...

I love eggplant roasted in cubes with extra-virgin olive oil, and served in a roasted vegetable salad with butternut pumpkin, zucchini, roasted or char-grilled red pepper, caramelised spanish onion, toasted pine nuts and steamed green beans, topped with a splash of balsamic vinegar and crumbled creamy feta cheese. It's delicious and you can eat it in any season - somehow it manages to be hearty in winter and refreshing in summer.

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous EB said...

'fried eggplant "wings"' Are you kidding me??? HOOK IT UP!

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Cinthia said...

All my life, my mother tried to feed my sister and I moussaka. I hated the eggplant so much back then. What was wrong with me? Now I love eggplant with a passion and I would welcome a casserole dish filled with moussaka, though I think it is a bit too much hard work... the peeling, salting, frying the slices... too complicated. It'd be easier to befriend a wonderful Egyptian cook and hope that they've made it when you visit...

One of my favorite ways to eat it is in tomato sauce with brown rice spaghetti. I still have to peel, salt and fry it, but at least I can use a lot less, and it really adds something to the sauce.

Oh, and I had eggplant yesterday at the local Nepalese restaurant: Nepalese bhanta chicken. Chunks of eggplant and chicken in a fresh curry gravy... magically delicious!

 
At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Kara said...

I have to agree with my fellow Buffalo, NY reader. Buffalo Eggplant is the best! I marinate chunks of eggplant in Frank's hot sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill them (using butter and hot sauce to baste them) until they start to slightly blacken. Dip them in some GF blue cheese and it's heaven!

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Cakespy said...

Eggplant Bharta, the Indian dish (preferably from Roti right here in Queen Anne!), is my weapon of choice with eggplant. Fantastic. I used to be queasy about the seeds, but am now making up for lost time during my picky eater childhood years!

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Ratatouille, of course! Eggplant and tomatoes, zucchini and onions, lots of garlic and olive oil and fresh herbs from the garden. It always expands, so a big pan (I use my 3 quart All-Clad stainless saute pan) is a must. Sometimes mushrooms get in, if I have 'em.

So...do you wrestle with the locality issue with foods like eggplant, lemongrass, etc.?

 
At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yaki nasu--grilled or broiled eggplant--peeled, the soft flesh served with grated ginger and a drizzle of soy sauce. Yum.

I also like pieces of eggplant in miso soup.

I also like the "mapo tofu" (which you often find at Chinese restaurants) with eggplant in it along with the tofu--have had it served as "mabo nasu" in Japan. The eggplant must be soft & succulent when it goes into the stirfry.

I also like eggplant curries, since it's easy to cook them until they're deliciously soft.

Basically, I love eggplant as long as it doesn't have any bit of rawness left!

Ellen

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Dkswife said...

Grilled w/ fresh oregano/basil/thyme, with some feta and parmesean cheese. Oh, I love it. Salt and pepper too! :)

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Debbie said...

A couple of weeks ago, I read this description of a veggie wrap: "grilled eggplant..." That was enough for me. It didn't matter what the other veggies were. I would get it for the grilled eggplant. Smoky from the grill, the taste of olive oil. Unfortunately, this restaurant didn't know how to grill eggplant. I must wait some more.

 
At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't look in the comments for suggestions about preparing eggplant the best way ... I like it no matter how it's fixed. What I'm really curious about is the dish you used in the photograph! How was it made?

 
At 7:48 PM, Anonymous edamame said...

Love for the food is felt in your site. And I sympathize with a thought for your food.I support your site.If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan
http://food-soybean.blogspot.com/

 
At 9:03 PM, Blogger milhan said...

When you think of eggplant, you think of Turkish cuisine.

Imam Bayildi is delicious (especially with a dollop of yogurt)...

Then there is Hunkar Begendi (Sultan's Delight). This is a puree of smoked eggplant, mixed with a bechamel sauce (I use rice flour) and grated hard Turkish cheese (kasheri). You serve a succulent lamb stew on top of the puree...OMG, it is so rich, and smoky, and delicious!

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Zoe said...

I like to slice it and using a dab of mayo as a binding agent- press it into breadcrumbs- spritz it with olive oil and bake it in the convection oven- then when it's all golden and crispy- the world is my oyster!

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger YA76OO said...

lovely...

 
At 2:41 PM, Anonymous JohnnyB said...

We take a boatload of eggplant slices and other sliced veggies (green and yellow squash, vidalia onions, portabello caps, whole heads of garlic, tomatoes, etc.) marinate them and then throw them on the grill. They go great with a nice steak or a grilled fish like tuna or some mahi mahi. Our favorite is to marinade them in a jerk spice or dust them with some cajun spices.

The next day, any leftovers become the foundation for a vegetable lasagne.

I also do my famous Celiac Pizza with this. Lay down slices of sweet potatoes in a greased dish. Layer in some pepperoni, the grilled eggplant and other veggies, mozzarella or a cheese sub that melts. Then pour on the tomato sauce and bake the whole mess in the oven. (I like to add blended chipotles for a bit of heat. But do what works for you).

It takes a bit of practice to get the temperature and time right to get the sweet potatoes to bind together. But it's delicious as a casserole or as a pseudo-deep-dish-pizza. If you're really obsessed about it staying together, you can drop a couple of beaten egg whites over the sweet potatoes before layering anything else on.

My 7 year-old says its the best "pizza" he's ever had. (and he HATES eggplant...so nobody tell him that there's eggplant in it)

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know you posted this website forever ago, but i just came to your website and this post just seemed perfect for me to comment on.
a. i think i might be allergic to gluten, which is how i found your blog in the first place.

b. we just grilled asparagus last night on the grill!!!

c. i was/am dreaming about eggplant parmigana.

it seems like everything i do, you have already done and posted about.

keep up the good work and congrats on everything.

tnt

 
At 3:49 AM, Anonymous dave wright said...

for the record, i think your eggplant photos are quite nice. :)

 

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