In Indian vegetarian cooking the eggplant is the 'king of vegetables.' As an informal student of nutrition, this has always piqued my curiosity, since the eggplant is a source of no 'vital nutrient.' It has few calories. It has little protein or fat. It has almost no vitamins. So why would nature invent such a vegetable - what would animals who ate it have to gain by eating its fruits? The answer, I think, is fiber.
And the reason for eggplant's popularity in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian cooking is because it absorbs and melds flavors of other ingredients so effectively. A well executed eggplant dish can have an almost transcendent lusciousness to it. Though it may have been its lovely purple skin that really earned it the moniker, its usefulness as a medium of good flavor earns it the right to keep it.
My favorite eggplant dish has to be eggplant parmesan. There must be a million recipes for eggplant parmesan, so let's look at one that is wheat-free and dairy-free. If you can have dairy, then use provolone or mozzarella for the dish, and serve with a nice, freshly grated parmesano reggiano.
Eggplant Parmesan - Wheat & Dairy Free
- Make or get spaghetti sauce: about 4 cups for the eggplant and more for the spaghetti. One jar per four people, if salad and desert will be served.
- Preheat oven to 300F
- Heat 8 quarts of water on the stove for spaghetti
- Slice 8 slices of soy cheese.
- Peel and slice one medium eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices, about 8 per eggplant.
- Salt the slices with kosher salt, place in a stainless steel colander, and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Rinse off the eggplant and pat dry.
- Mix and place in a sieve 1/2 cup flour , 12 turns pepper, 1 tsp salt, and spread over a plate.
- Lay the eggplant on a flat surface ( cookie sheet, wax paper ..) and dust lightly with flour on both sides. Knock lightly to remove excess.
- Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large heavy, non-stick fry-pan, medium heat.
- In a bowl, mix an egg with a fork, for about a minute.
- Place 3 rice cakes, 1/4 tsp salt, 6 turns pepper, and a pinch of thyme in a blender or food processor and process until not lumpy - like sand.
- Dip the floured eggplant slices in the egg then in the crushed rice cakes. And place them in fry pan. Cook 3 minutes per side, flip, cook 3 more minutes until golden brown.
- Place the eggplant in a single layer in a pyrex dish, cover with hot spaghetti sauce. Cover each with a slice of soy cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 300. At the end of 20 minutes, make pasta.
- Cook one package of wheat -free pasta such as Pepperdini or Ener-G pasta.
- Serve eggplant and spaghetti.
As Davd Rosengarten explains in the Dean and DeLuca cookbook, the difference between Ratatouille and Caponata - both cold eggplant dishes is profound. Caponata, is an agro dolce: it tastes of sugar and vinegar. Ratatouille is flavored with neither; it is simply a cold stew of vegetables including eggplant.
This particular recipe bears little relationship to the material sold in those little Progresso cans, though that is delicious. This is less intensely flavored, and less dear.
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Remove the skin of one onion, slice in half. and place on a on a half-sheet in the oven.
- Place 2 medium eggplants on the half-sheet. Set a timer for 20 minutes
- At the end of 20 minutes turn both eggplants 1/3 turn. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
- Turn the eggplant a second time. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the eggplants and onion and allow everything to cool, about 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the following:
In a half cup measure place 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon chopped or minced garlic. Heat over a flame for a few minutes until bubbly and fragrant. Grind 5 turns of pepper into it, and add to the bowl.
When the onion is cool enough to handle, chop it, place it in a 10 inch pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.Toss in 2 tsp sugar. Saute over med-high heat until the onion is gently caramelized.
Use a sharp spatula or knife to scrape the eggplant from the skin. Chop coarsely, salt lightly - a pinch of salt per eggplant. Add to the bowl.
Add the onion to to the bowl.
Open a 12 oz. can of black olives. Reserve 7 for garnish. Chop the rest and add to the mixing bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the olive brine to the eggplant, depending on how intensely it is flavored.
If desired, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with black olives and fresh parsley.
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 tsp celery seeds.
- 1/2 tsp herbs for croutons. ( a mix of garlic salt, sweet basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and black pepper or add pinches of these herbs and spices.)
Eat well and prosper.
Sometimes it's the perfect summer dish. At other times it just strikes one as being a sort of waste of vegetables. It's not an easy dish to prepare well. But when it works perfectly, it is great. The secret to great ratatouille is that the vegetables have to be caramelized to a perfect sweetness. This is not trivially easy to do. In fact, if one is being a perfectionist, each vegetable is roasted individually in an oven until done, then the vegetables are cooked for a short period as a melange to meld the flavors, then cooled. Finally, for this to work well, small batches and patience are called for.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Get out two large cookie sheets or jellyroll pans as you need and as many silicone mats. Or use 9x13 pyrex pans.
- 1 green bell pepper - remove stem, seeds and ribs
- 1 red bell pepper - stem , seeds and ribs
- 3 yellow squash - stem
- 2 zucchini - stem
- 1 onion - cleaned, cut in 8 wedges
- 2 eggplant - peel and stem
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- Slice the squash into 1/2 inch slices. Cut the peppers into 1 inch squares. Cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch cubes.
- Salt the eggplant cubes lightly, a few pinches of salt total.
- Arrange all the vegetables on single layers - peppers, tomatoes, and onions in one, squash and eggplant in the other. And roast in the oven. Check at the end of twenty minutes, remove veggies that have browned. Check again at 30 minutes. At 40 minutes remove the balance of the vegetables..
- Pop the skins off the tomatoes and discard. (if they do not pop off, they have not been roasted enough. NBD just roast more next time.)
- Place in a 4 -5 quart Dutch Oven 1/2 cup olive oil. Add the eggplant and saute under high heat for a few minutes. Add the remaining vegetables. And reduce the heat to med-low.
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley,
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme or half as much dried.
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1 can of tomato paste
- Heat stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes over med-low heat.
This cold dish is delicious on pita bread
- Bake 1 medium eggplant at 375 for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes
- Scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor
- 1/4 cup sesame tahini,
- 1/4 cup lemon juice,
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil,
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- Pulse the food processor until a fine texture is achieved
- Garnish with salmon roe and parsley
Eggplant Recipes OnLine
Copyright S.R. Brubaker 2002 - 2006.