Friday, August 24, 2012

Eating Omily: A Ode to Eggplant and Surprise Visitors

Things are settling down around here: skinny kitten is eating dry food, my allergy shot appointment is set for Tuesday mornings, my aerial teacher will be back to her regularly scheduled program next week, and I just bought a smokin' dress on clearance at Daffy's.

More to the point: I picked up some bacon, cheese, and the first concord grapes of the season at the Farmer's Market today!  Can't believe the grapes are out already.  I haven't canned a single tomato!  Going to have to put that on the to-do list this week.

So what have I been eating?  Oh, all kinds of things!  Over the weekend, I made a recipe I found in a booklet that I found along with another booklet and two records in the free box outside the nifty antique store across from Radegast Biergarten in Williamsburg.  The booklets and records are all part of a series about yoga.  Yes, I can do yoga to a record!  As soon as we get a turntable.

So the recipe was for stuffed eggplant, and it was super delicious!  I didn't follow the recipe exactly; I just read it through, and then did the best I could with what I had.

You'll need:

1 eggplant, the round purple variety, the bigger the better
1 (or more, depending on the your eggplant) tomato
1 onion
a couple garlic cloves
basil (or other herbs, fresh or dried)
1 egg
breadcrumbs (no idea how much; I think I had like, half a cup?)
 shredded or grated cheese (I used mozzarella; I'm sure Parmesan would be awesome, too)

A note here: you know how you usually end up with some bread at the end of the loaf that's borderline stale and no one wants to eat it?  Cut it into cubes and freeze it.  Keep adding to your stash, and when you need breadcrumbs, pour some breadcrumbs into your foodprocessor and fire it up.  Alternately, you can make tasty croutons just by frying your breadcubes in oil, or, you know, baking them.  Whatever.

 So, peel the eggplant, and cut it in half, and hollow it out, leaving an eggplant shell.  Since I'd already dirtied the food processor to make breadcrumbs, I threw the eggplant, the tomato, onion, and garlic into the the food processor and pulsed it all into a rough puree, but you could also just chop the ingredients for a courser filling.  The purree went into a hot, oiled skillet with salt, and pepper, and got cooked.  I added the chopped fresh basil at the very end.  I stirred some of the hot mixture into the beaten egg to temper it (so it wouldn't scramble), then added the egg mixture back to the pan, along with the breadcrumbs.  I stirred the mixture all together into a thick paste, and then filled up the oiled, salted eggplant halves with it.  I had some left over, and some frozen sliced eggplant in the freezer, so I made the rest into eggplant roll-ups, which works, too.  I sprinkled cheese on top of the eggplant halves, and added some cheese to the roll-ups, and put the whole shebang in the oven at 375 for twenty minutes.  That was long enough for the eggplant to be pretty much cooked through, and the top to be brown and crunchy.  Another ten minutes wouldn't have hurt, and might be a good idea if you want to be sure the filling is heated all the way through since there's egg in it.
It looked tastier in person, but just check out that melty crunchiness!  Nom.  If you're not sure you like eggplant, start with this. 

I've got more eggplant love coming, though!  See, I still had defrosted sliced frozen eggplant on my hands, and another whole eggplant from my share on Monday.  So last night, I sliced the whole eggplant, stacked the defrosted eggplant, drizzled with oil, and baked at 375 till it was very tender (about forty minutes, but it varies).  When you're working with just whole eggplant, it's easy to scoop the eggplant out of the skin, and mash it up with a spoon, but since not all the sliced eggplant had been peeled, I put it all in the food processor to get it all pureed.  I added garlic (grated if fresh, or garlic powder if you don't have fresh), high quality olive oil, and usually I add lemon juice, but I forgot this time, and salt and pepper.  When I learned this recipe, it was called "eggplant caviar", so that's what I call it, but it's certainly a close cousin of baba ganoush.  The resulting dip is warm, savory, smooth, and filling.  I chopped up carrots, sweet peppers, wholewheat bread, and some prosciutto for dippers, and re-melted the left-over fondue from our last cheese coma dinner, and steamed two ears of corn to go along with it.  Dinner was a little eclectic, yes, but also super yummy, and the bow on the package was a delicious pumpkin ale.  Mmmmm...a bit early for pumpkin, but I'll allow it!
We got an extra special surprise when I peeled the corn, too: a caterpillar had been shanghaied from a farm in Jersey, to Union Square, to our fridge!  Obviously a lot of people would be grossed out by a creepy crawly on something they planned on eating, but nothing get me more excited!
If a caterpillar could survive on that corn, that meant it was definitely not the scary GMO variety that makes insects' stomachs explode, and it definitely wasn't sprayed to death with pesticides, either.  I was confident my corn was neither of those things to begin with, because I know and trust the farmer that grows it, but that kind of confirmation is priceless.  If it was safe for that little guy to munch on our corn, then it was safe for us, too!  I thanked him and dropped him into the garden outside our window.

 Going to try baked eggplant?  Eggplant caviar?  Give it a shot, and let me know what you think!  The eggplants are sweet, and plentiful this time of year, and if you stock up, slice, and freeze, you'll be all set to enjoy eggplant parm and eggplant roll-ups all winter long...nom.



  1. I LOVE baked eggplant and this recipe looks especially tasty. Thanks for sharing, Em! xo style, she wrote

  2. This recipe is great! The only thing that makes me sad is that I can't preserve whole eggplant or eggplant halves, so I can't do the stuffed version in the winter, when I'd rather turn the oven on! The roll-ups are great too, though, and there's always eggplant parm!