Cultural Identities through Cookery continued…
Eggplant, both hated and revered yet so versatile. I am in the lover’s camp. Lately, thanks to NAFTA and our Mexican neighbors to the south who have graciously taken over our fresh fruit and vegetable production, eggplants have proliferated and prices have fallen. Their year around availability has almost caused me to overdose, almost.
Believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, eggplants traveled West and adapted to a variety of cuisines. They also took on many shapes, colors and sizes. Thomas Jefferson, the original American Foodie, brought eggplants to this country via France. Background searches attribute its name to an old white oval shaped variety the size of a large egg and still available in some markets.
My favorite recipe is the simplest and the one I most often prepare:
Roasted eggplant dip.
Roast one large eggplant till soft, preferably over an oven flame. Peel, mash and whip with 1/2 cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and half of a finely chopped onion.
*Variation: stir in a couple of spoons of yogurt and add a crushed garlic clove.
Eggplants make a great meat substitute especially when sliced, breaded with flour, egg, breadcrumbs and fried. The cutlets can be covered with cheese and marinara and baked the Italian way, or with a nice mushroom sauce. You can also use them to make sandwiches by placing them on a toasted bun with a good aioli some spinach leaves and sliced red onions.
The spongy quality of the eggplant causes it to absorb a lot of oil which I do not object to because it is also the reason for its ability to take on so many flavors. I had the best baby eggplant curry at a Thai restaurant and of course Middle Eastern cuisine features stewed or fried eggplant in many dishes.
Vegan Eggplant Stew
Sautee a chopped onion till golden. Add a cubed eggplant, salt and pepper and a couple of spoons of curry powder and fry till soft. Add a pound of sliced mushrooms and a cup of tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes, taste and serve with rice and yogurt.