Mar 092013
 

image eggplant stuffed with lamb

Succulent lamb on a bed of tender eggplant, generously spiced and sprinkled with pine nuts.

I served this aromatic, meaty dish with white rice on the side, just something rather plain, so as not to clash with the big, Middle Eastern flavors. With a leafy salad of mixed greens, we had a feast. And I’m thinking it would work really well on Passover week, when guests come from out of town and I’ll want to make something special.

It is a dish apart. I felt lucky to have discovered it in a new cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s  Jerusalem, A Cookbook. I hadn’t tried any of the recipes yet, just flipped through the pages, admiring the gorgeous photographs.

Then I remembered. In the fridge was lurking this enormous eggplant.

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Sep 072012
 

image-israeli-eggplant-salad

Almost every Israeli restaurant has some version of this vegetarian dish.  Upscale restaurants call it eggplant carpaccio. Plain folks call it eggplant and tahini salad. Some versions, like this one, are rich with cheese and tomatoes and olive oil, and some are plainer, with just charred eggplant a good dollop of tahini on the side. Myself, I lay that eggplant on its back and pile everything on top of it. The hot eggplant drizzled with garlicky tahini, lemon juice, silan date syrup and olive oil creates a most subtle sauce right there in the plate. And the tomatoes and feta shine through the eggplant and sauce like – like a rich pearl in an Ethiope’s ear. You get layers of flavors in every bite.

So I started with a baladi eggplant from the shuk. Baladi connotes higher quality because the fruit is wild or unsprayed or raised on a small farm according to old-fashioned methods. When you’re trawling through the shuk and come upon a stand with these dark purple, ridged eggplants, you’ve met the baladi. Other eggplant varieties work fine for this dish too, of course. I favor baladi because they look a lot funkier, and they tend to be big.

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Feb 172011
 

image-ratatouille

Just an eggplant and me. It was a slender young thing, all in shiny dark purple. Almost too beautiful to slice up.

But I was hungry.

Ratatouille takes minutes to prepare. It’s deliciously Mediterranean, redolent of olive oil. It’s filling. And low-carb.

I sharpened my knife.

Ratatouille

4 servings

Ingredients:

1 eggplant weighing about 350 grams

1 large onion

2 slender zucchini

2 large, very ripe tomatoes

1 large, red, bell pepper or (1 medium red and 1 medium green)

2 garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil

salt & pepper

Method:

Cut the eggplant into slices as thick as your thumb. Cut each slice in half.

Slice the onion into thick rings; halve each slice.

Cut the zukes into slices the same width as the eggplant, but do not halve.

Chop the tomatoes into rough chunks. Do the same with the bell pepper.

Mince the garlic.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a wide pan. Add onions and fry till starting to soften. Add all the other vegetables, including garlic.

Drizzle a little more olive oil in. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame, stirring once in a while.

Cover pot, lower flame, and cook without uncovering for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover again, and cook another minute or two. Taste for seasoning. Ratatouille is done when the eggplant is cooked through and everything is kind of soupy.

Pronto! Eat hot, at room temperature, or cold, with crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

image-sliced- eggplant

Jan 192011
 

image-stuffed-eggplant

For our Tu B’Shvat feast, I thought I’d stuff an eggplant.  I saw this gorgeous shiny purple “baladi” – prime – eggplant in the shuk. Brought it home, set it down on the kitchen counter, and contemplated it.

image-eggplant
I could imagine layering it, fried, with cheese. Doing something tomato-saucy.

Umm, too much.  Too big to chop up into ratatouille. We would be eating ratatouille for weeks. Too big for babah ganoush for the same reason. Too big to grill. Too big, too big, too big. There’s only three of us in the house these days. What was I thinking?

But it looked so good.

Then I recalled a fruity bulgur salad that was sitting in the fridge. It was full of chopped nuts and fruit and chives and celery. Hmmm. Wheat. Walnuts. Currants. Sounds like Tu B’Shvat to me. So I stuffed and baked the purple monster with fruity bulgur and let me tell you, it was good. We didn’t have any trouble eating it up. If you’re fond of eggplant, try this one.

Eggplant Stuffed with Fruity Bulgur

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

olive oil

1/2 cup medium-grade bulgur

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup boiling water

1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup raisins or currants

1 celery stalk

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons minced chives or 1 shallot

1/2 red apple

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon cumin

dash cinnamon

1. Place the bulgur in a heatproof bowl with the salt and mix. Pour the boiling water over it and cover the bowl. Leave it alone for 1/2 hour.

2. Meantime, toast the sunflower seeds in a medium oven for 5 minutes. Chop the walnuts coarsely and the celery and apple finely (don’t peel the apple). Chop the chives (or shallot).

3. Pour some of the lemon juice over the apples to prevent browning. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and set aside.

4. Remove the green cap from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in half horizontally. Cut away the pulp, leaving a thin shell inside. Chop the pulp finely and add it to the fruit bowl. Mix well.

5. Brush the insides of the eggplant halves with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and grind some pepper over all.

6. Fluff the cooked bulgur up with a fork. Add it to the fruit/eggplant bowl and mix well. Drizzle more olive oil into it, mix, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, honey, cumin or cinnamon to taste.

7. Stuff the eggplants, tamping the bulgur mixture down with your hands to keep it firm. Drizzle yet another little olive oil over all.

image-stuffed-eggplant-halves

8. Tuck a strip of tin foil tightly around each half. Bake at 350° F – 180° C for 1 to 1-1/2 hour, depending on size of eggplant. When the meat on the shells and the chopped eggplant in the stuffing is tender and an appetizing odor of “cooked” arises, it’s done.

Remove the tin foil and bake another 10 minutes to make the top crisp.

The stuffing tends to crumble when first taken out of the oven. To slice firm portions, allow the dish to cool and then re-heat it. Good at room temperature too.

slice w fork in foreground blurred

Dec 072009
 

It was Friday, and I was cooking for Shabbat in an uninspired way. Just your basic basil/lemon chicken roasted over root vegetables. Israeli salad (plenty of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, seasoned with salt, lemon juice and olive oil). Houmous, corn salad, a plate of olives and pickles. The guests were a family with three small children. While I kept the meal plain to please the little people, I wanted one sophisticated dish for the grownups.

I opened the fridge and found two firm, purple eggplants in the vegetable bin. Aha.

Slice, flour, and fry them? Too ordinary.

Ratatouille? Somehow I wasn’t in the mood for ratatouille.

So I searched the friendly Net and found The Eggplant Recipe Database. I adapted this Chinese-ish recipe from it. It’s s sweet and sour, chili-hot and has lots of garlic. My adult guests loved it, and even the Little One, who claims to hate all purple food, ate and enjoyed.

Note: this is a good vegetarian dish. It makes a fine complement to brown rice and the salads mentioned above.

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

Serves 4 as a vegetarian main dish, 8 as a side dish. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped eggplant; pieces about 1 inch wide.

oil for frying

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

A healthy pinch of chili flakes – or as much as you like. The dish should have some chili heat.

3 tablespoons plus 1 tsp. sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1/2 cup chopped green onions, green part only

1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons hot oil to add when sauce is finished

note: I was out of green onion, so I used about 1/4 cup chopped chives.

Method:

With Oriental recipes, most of the work goes into assembling and chopping the ingredients beforehand; the actual cooking goes quickly. To make life easier, have ready in separate bowls:

  • the chopped eggplant
  • the garlic and ginger, together
  • the ketchup, measured (just leave it in its measuring cup)
  • the sugar and vinegar, mixed to dissolve the sugar
  • the chopped green onions, and
  • the cornstarch, dissolved in water

1. Slice the eggplant in half, horizontally. Place each half skin up and cut through the peel first in horizontal, then in vertical slices. This will give you chunks with peel on each one.

2. Fry the eggplant in oil over medium heat for 10 minutes. The pieces should be cooked through and dark yellow.

3. Drain the eggplant on paper towels and set aside.

4. In the same skillet, fry the ginger and garlic, adding a little oil if needed. When a strong aroma arises, add the ketchup and stir for 1 minute.

5. Add the white wine, soy sauce, and chili flakes, and simmer for 2 minutes.

6. Add the sugar/vinegar mixture. Stir and simmer another few minutes.

7. Add the dissolved cornstarch in its water.

8. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the chopped green onions and hot oil. Stir for a minute.

9. Add the eggplant to the sauce. When it’s well coated with sauce, it’s ready to serve.

Serve over white rice or rice noodles.

3 More eggplant recipes:

Oct 012009
 

Bloggers: check out the Israeli English-Speaking Bloggers Evening this month!

This vegetarian casserole was adapted from a recipe on The New York Times online. The original calls for dairy-based corn biscuits and sausage in the filling – nisht koosher. So I substituted walnuts and mozzarella for the sausage.  The robust flavors of eggplant and tomatoes marry well with the mild cheese, walnuts provide meatiness and crunch, and crisp cornbread over all makes the dish perfect for the cooler autumn weather. I’m keeping this recipe for one of the Sukkot meals.

In spite of the long list of ingredients, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to assemble and pop in the oven. The secret is to put all your chopped vegetables into separate bowls. Then you can just throw everything together as needed.

Ratatouille Covered with Cornbread

serves 6

printable version here

Ingredients for Roasted Vegetables:

1 medium eggplant or 1/2 large one

2 medium zucchinis

1 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for Cooked Vegetables:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

3 large tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. salt

black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley (basil’s better!)

1 cup walnut halves

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Ingredients for the cornbread biscuits:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon  salt

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt – not low-fat (I use kefir)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F -230° C

1. Peel the zukes. Chop them, and the eggplant, into pieces of about 1″.

2. Toss the vegetable chunks with the olive oil, salt, and a little pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet, taking care not to crowd them. Roast for 20 minutes or until they are golden.

3. Meantime, peel and chop the onions. Chop the bell pepper into 1″ pieces. Chop the tomatoes. Crush or finely chop the garlic.

4. In a medium pan, fry the onions till they’re wilted. Add the bell pepper; stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and garlic. Stir and cook till the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir the basil or parsley in.

Cover the pan and turn the flame off. Now make the biscuits.

1. Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2. Cut the butter in until the mixture is crumby. You can use your your hands for this, rubbing the butter in through the dry ingredients, or cut it in with a pastry knife, or fork.

3. Stir the sour cream in . Gently knead mixture until it comes together in a ball, adding a drop or two of milk if necessary.

Note: you can do the whole operation in a food processor, blending the dry ingredients with the knife blade, then adding butter chunks and finally adding the cream. Don’t over-process, just let it whiz till you have a ball of dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it till you need it.

Assembling:

1. Spoon a thick layer of the ratatouille on the bottom of a medium casserole or 2-quart baking pan.

2. Coarsely crumble the walnuts in your hand; spread the pieces over the vegetables.

3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over all.

4. Repeat the previous three steps. Spread the ingredients around the casserole, smoothing them down to make a level surface.

5. Take the biscuit dough and separate it into 6 pieces. With your hands, press each piece into a biscuit; lay the biscuits on top of the whole.

6. Brush the biscuits with milk.

Bake the ensemble 20-25 minutes, or till the biscuits are golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Jul 232009
 

Israelis love eggplant. We”ve been eating it fried, pickled, grilled, flame-roasted, creamed, combined with all kinds of vegetables and flavorings and eggs – since the austerity years of the 1950s. Meat was expensive and scarce, but eggplant grew easily here and there was always lots of it. Cooks in those hard times found or invented many recipes featuring the meaty, versatile eggplant.  We borrowed from the Arab cuisine, re-invented Eastern European eggplant specialties, developed recipes of our own. It’s still a star vegetable in Israel.

I’ve eaten eggplant every which way, but had never tasted eggplant soup. A recipe in the Jerusalem Post (May 1, 2009) intrigued me, and I cooked it for my birthday dinner. It’s aromatic with basil, oregano, and garlic – creamy yet a little chunky with pine nuts from pesto. Folks loved it. Since then, I’ve discovered a number of eggplant soup recipes, all involving garlic, plenty of herbs, and cream or cheese. It’s a fine vegetarian dish.

Here’s my adaptation of the one I found in the Post. The original calls for vegetable soup powder, but I don’t keep that around. The first time I made the soup, I simmered up a quick vegetable stock, using the vegetables on hand.  2 carrots, an orange bell pepper, 2 celery stalks, , 1 sliced onion, a zuke, a tomato, a bay leaf, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, and a couple of cloves of  garlic.

The second time, I happened to have a basket of mushrooms that needed cooking, so I substituted their taste for that of the stock and used water. Both versions are delicious, but the mushroom one is faster.

Eggplant Soup

serves 6

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized eggplants
Olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups – 2 liters vegetable stock
or
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms and 8 cups water
2 Tblsp. chopped fresh basil
1 Tblsp. chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 Tbslp. dried. Oregano may be substituted for the thyme.
Salt and pepper to taste
Light cream, sour cream, or yoghurt
6 Tblsp. prepared pesto

Method:

1. Stand each eggplant on its side and cut it in half.
2. Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh, deeply.
3. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cut eggplant halves.
4. Grill for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is brown, soft, and separating into cubes.
5. With a spoon, scrape the flesh off the skin. Chop the flesh coarsely and put it aside.
6. Heat 3 Tblsp. olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat . Saute the onions and garlic in it for 8 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms, add them now too. If you wish, keep 1/4 cup of mushroom slivers to add to the soup about 5 minutes before serving.
7. When the onions are golden and the mushrooms are starting to release juice, add the stock (or water) and eggplant. Bring everything up to a boil.
8. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
9. Add basil,thyme, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes.


10. With a slotted spoon or mesh spatula, lift the solids out of the pot. Keep the hot soup aside.
11. Blend the solids in a food processor or blender till smooth.
12. Return the puree to the hot liquid and reheat to a simmer. Now the soup is ready.
13. Put 1 Tblsp. sour cream or yoghurt into each bowl, or drizzle a little whipping cream in.

Top with 1/2 Tblsp. pesto each.

Serve the soup with cornbread or queijadinhas or bruschetta and follow it with a salad.

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