Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Learning to Love...
There have been a few speed bumps on my road to being a well rounded foodie. Although I have yet to meet anyone that is less picky an eater than me, there are still a few things that I shy away from ordering or cooking with because I don't loooove an ingredient. And my motto has always been to eat only what I love, and only what's delicious. But, that doesn't mean I can't stretch myself and my palette by incorporating some new things into my daily repertoire. I know many people that flip for eggplant. They love it in pasta, they put it on their pizza and bake it by the dozen in lasagna.
I never grew up using or eating eggplant and wasn't really introduced to it until I moved to New York and became all too well acquainted with the carby, fatty goodness of eggplant Parmesan. Years of working as a magazine assistant led to heaping spoonfuls of it eaten at my desk between meetings and during working lunches and dinners. Needless to say, after a while, some things take on a negative connotation when associated with less than stellar memories, and as such, eggplant has fallen by the wayside as far as my diet is concerned. But recently, an excellent trip to the farmer's market inspired me to rediscover this lovely fruit (that's right, eggplant is actually a fruit--google it if you don't believe me, but it is in fact a berry).
A new stand at the market that I'd never seen had a lovely selection of Japanese eggplant, which are significantly smaller and more slender than the eggplant we're used to here in the United States. A few went a long way towards an excellent side dish (that is for once totally vegetarian...except for the fish sauce...well, I tried) from one of my favorite chefs, Kylie Kwong. I actually combined two of her eggplant recipes into one, using the roasting application from her book Heart and Soul, and the tomato dressing from Simple Chinese Cooking. I always figured that I liked eggplant in stir-fry, so why not go for a Chinese application? The dish turned out really great, with the eggplant taking on a nutty flavor after a long roast in the oven. The finely diced garlic on top also roasted and took on a mild, sweet flavor, which contrasted wonderfully with the sweet and sour tomato dressing. I made a few minor tweaks to each recipe so that they'd work together, like adding extra fish sauce and vinegar to the dressing to up the tartness and take away some of the sweetness that we'd get from the eggplant and garlic. Here's what I came up with:
Japanese Eggplant with Garlic, Olive Oil and Tomatoes
adapted from Heart and Soul
3-4 Japanese eggplants, halved, then halved lengthwise
extra virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 bunch thyme
1 teaspoon salt
ground white pepper
adapted from Simple Chinese Cooking
4 small tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely sliced spring onions
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp malt vinegar
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Place eggplant on a lightly greased baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes or until eggplant is tender.
2. Increase oven temperature to 400 F degrees and uncover baking sheet. Cook eggplant another 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for tomato dressing in a bowl and set aside.
4. Arrange eggplant on a platter or in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with tomato salsa. Enjoy!