Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eggcelent Eggplants

Eggplant sounds so much more melodious in other languages: Melanzane, Augergine, Badimcan, when I took Bulgarian at UCLA this language was my favorite translation that apparently is out of favor, Cini Domata (sorry my blog does not do Cyrillic) which means "blue tomato" I think there is a cafe bistro name in there somewhere.

It is Summertime, and what I like to call Ratatouille Time, because all the ingredients are in season. This week I chose the lowly eggplant for several reasons. One, I truly love the versatility of this vegetable, and two it is just so yummy! What is also interesting is that here in the US, almost the entire crop is sent directly to market, so eggplants may be the last bastion of vegetables that are not mass marketed or processed. Apparently there was an attempt to create a GMO variety, but it was soundly rejected in India, to my knowledge (please let me know if I am wrong) there is currently no threat of a non-organic eggplant of being GMO, but the organic ones are just so much more interesting to look at, so many colors and shapes!

Eggplant Basics

The best way to choose eggplants is to look for smooth firm skin. Wrinkles are not pretty on eggplants! Broaden your horizons, try all different shapes and sizes. Cut the tops and bottoms off and rub the ends with the top piece, it draws the acidy taste out.

The best way to prepare eggplants for cooking is to slice them into thick cross or lengthwise slices 1/2 - 3/4 inches, rub a little sea or kosher salt on each side and place in a colander to let drain. This can take several hours, but it is worth it because the salt takes out a lot of the fluid and makes the eggplant less mushy.

Another way to cook eggplant is to wash the skin, leave the stem on, prick all over with a fork or knife and place it in a roasting pan,  bottom of the pan lined with foil if you like. I just love these pans, use them for all my veggie roasting needs.

Put the eggplant filled roasting pan into a 425 degree oven for about an hour or until the vegetable deflates. Take out of the oven, let cool, and scrape out the pulp from the  vegetable. This works great for dips and sauces. You can also do this on a cookie sheet, I suggest covering with foil.

The last way to cook eggplant is to grill slices. You can do this on a BBQ grill, just make sure the slices are thick, but my favorite way is on the counter top grill.

Slice off the stem of the eggplant, use your favorite bottled vinaigrette dressing (organic please remember Canola Oil is GMO unless organic) as a quick marinade, grill for about 5 - 7 minutes. Top with chopped herbs and green onion, a little crumbled feta and you have an excellent antipasto salad. These slices are also nice to have on hand for quick sandwiches, or you can spread some sun dried tomato pesto, add some grated cheese of your choice and chopped herbs, and you have an incredible roll up.

Baba Ganoush

Pulp from one large or two small roasted eggplants
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup Tahini (sesame seed paste available at health food and Arab markets)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves peeled and crushed garlic
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1/4 cup of the white part of the green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Sea Salt for Taste, Smoked Paprika for decoration

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor, blend until smooth, adding either oil or water in a thin stream to thin the consistency of the paste. place in a bowl or spread on a shallow dish and sprinkle with smoked paprika for garnish, you can also top with chopped cilantro if you like and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with bread, pita, or sliced vegetables, or as a spread in a sandwich.

This is an excellent recipe for Moussaka

And you won't want to miss the 26th Annual Eggplant Festival in Beautiful Loomis California, October 5th 2013. We will hopefully have a show for this event!

So HAVE FUN with your Blue Tomatoes!

Mae sure to listen to the Eggplant Podcast for interesting facts and ideas about the Melanzana as the Italians would call them.

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