Eggplant info and a dip recipe.
Plenty of people grow up with eggplants. I have always categorized them as a weird food. I hope that if you are in line with me you will keep reading.
Eggplants were not the thing in the Midwest in the 80s and 90s. They just weren’t. And even though Detroit is big on both Greek and Italian food… still not. John Dear would go for the gyro or the pasta with meatballs, any day. (Or the bacon, eggs, and toast but that’s a whole other blog post on Midwestern Coney Islands, and if you’re confused, well, you can’t be blamed.) Anytime I had eggplants before my married life, they were tough on the exterior, stringy and slimy on the interior. Bitter, too. So I steered clear, until someone served me an Eggplant Rollatine to die for. I snagged that recipe and also added Eggplant Parmesan to my repertoire. Still, eggplant sliced and fried to within an inch of its life hardly counts. That’s why I was so surprised when on my first taste of Neomonde’s (Lebanese bakery near my home) Baba Ganouj (traditional eggplant puree) I was immediately in love. After all, baba ganouj (/ganoush) is almost exclusively eggplant. It was silky. Complex. Light. Simple. Smooth. Irresistible. Yum!
Over time, I have tried an eggplant or two that I like. It’s still–in my opinion–in danger of being cooked tough, slimy, and/or bitter, but the result of good cooking is quite a reward. The Ultramind Solution‘s Ratatouille is perfection-in-a-slurp. So let’s talk eggplant.
Lots of shapes, sizes, and yes, even colors. Eggplants vary from purple to yellow, white, and green. Sizes vary from a grape to a pomello and shapes go from curvy woman to the great pumpkin. Chefs all over argue about the effectiveness of salting and draining eggplant before cooking it. Some claim this not only releases excess liquid, but also removes bitterness. Younger eggplants tend to be less bitter. Seeds are edible. I actually love them.
Eggplants–in family with tomatoes and potatoes–are high in fiber, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients, as well as several vitamins and nutrients. Eggplants are great for cardiovascular health and love to sop up free radicals. Naturally, they are very low in fat and sodium, but are great paired with a good-fat oil and herbs of all sorts, as well as other veggies.
Here is my recipe for an awesome–and easier than you might guess-eggplant puree. It is an easy way to introduce someone to roasting veggies (which, while that technique takes time, it is such an EASY way to cook). This puree/dip is great paired with pita (whole wheat or sesame) or just about any cracker or crusty bread. It also pairs with meat, all sorts of veggies, and eggs. I eat it with a spoon, sometimes.
NOTE: Tahini is the word for sesame butter (as in peanut butter. We’re not talking dairy, here). Like cashew, almond, or other nut butter, it can be more difficult to find and more expensive than peanut butter. (Although, these days…) Most large grocers will have the Joya or another brand of tahini, probably in the ethnic food aisle. Certainly a specialty store–health, middle eastern, Mediterranean, or other–will have it. A little goes a long way. It is a pantry staple for us, because it is a key ingredient in one of the world’s easiest foods to make: hummus.
CREAMY ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP
- Slash a large eggplant in several places and set on a baking pan with a lip. Roast at 450F for over an hour, waiting for some char to happen and the eggplant to almost collapse on itself.
- Let the eggplant cool. Peel off the skin (which you can do with your fingers) and discard juice. In a food processor, combine the eggplant (with seeds!), 1-2 garlic cloves, ¼ cup tahini, juice of 1 lemon, salt to taste, and a drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Whir until silky/creamy and taste for flavorings.
- Serve this warm, room temp, or even cold with pita bread (I like sesame), tomatoes, or cucumbers… or all three.