Monday, July 8, 2013

Is it eggplant or is it aubergine?

No matter your preference...I apparently can grow it.  It's a good thing because not much of anything else is knocking my socks off!
But!  I am going to have a lot of eggplant.  I guess the bunnies don't care for it and maybe the birds can't find them because they are up under those giant leaves.  I bet you'd like to see a picture of these guys, wouldn't you? 
They really are pretty and I am impressed with them and the quantity.  The flowerbuds are even nice...a kind of white and lavender.  Imagine that, a purple veggie with a lavender flower!  OK, here goes.  This is one side of the plant but let's get a different view...
Here's the other side...
Now, I bet you're wondering what in the world we're going to do with all of that eggplant.  Well, cook it, of course!  I know, this is not a terribly familiar vegetable in these parts.  We're more into the zucchini and yellow squash families but come on, let's live a little!  Bring some eggplant/aubergine into your life.  We need to head to the Mediterranean for a good portion of them and I am going to share so that you can start experimenting for yourself.  Remember, it's all attitude!  You CAN cook eggplant.  It is not hard to do; it is a wonderful supporting member of a dish or can be great on its own.  You can even use it as a very acceptable meat substitute for that favorite vegetarian in your life.  Meatless Monday, here we come!
So, some thoughts to conjure with.  You don't necessarily have to purge the "bitterness" from eggplant.  The young fruit is not tough and should not be bitter because it has fewer or no seeds.  It's those big seeds that make it bitter.  Also, young fruit should not become spongy (gross!) from absorbing too much liquid.  There's a time saver for salting and purging.  Peeling is a matter of choice.  Again, young fruit will not have a tough exterior so it's up to you.  Of course, I'm assuming you're choosing the young ones in the produce aisle.  Try moussaka, eggplant parmigiana or just grill or roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Tips for choosing eggplant (if it's not growing in your garden)
  • Choose smaller eggplants, not longer than 6"
  • Look for smooth, shiny and unblemished flesh (no big brown spots and no wrinkles)
  • Test the weight - does it seem heavy for its size?  It should!
Start with those tips, go forth and buy eggplant and if you must have a's one of my personal favorites, just right for summer!  And, yes, it has some different flavors but it is Sicilian!

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
Serves 8
½ cup olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, thickly sliced
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp currants
1 tbsp hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
2 medium eggplant, peeled and thickly sliced lengthwise
2 red bell peppers, sliced into thick strips
1 cup whole grape tomatoes
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a grill (indoors or out) to medium high heat.  If you're outdoors, you will need to use a grilling basket or foil so the smaller pieces don't fall through the grate.  Drizzle onion, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Keep onions separate.  Toss, making sure that all vegetables are well coated.  Grill vegetables until all have grillmarks and are slightly softened.  Cool the vegetables and then chop into medium dice.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the grilled onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute until softened.
Add the rest of the grilled vegetables, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Serve.
And as always, 

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