Eggplant’s Myriad Disguises

As a child I remember eggplants’ taste being much stronger, often unpleasantly irritating; I sometimes developed a rush in my mouth after eating fried eggplants –a summer dish my mother often served for lunch, topped with fresh tomato sauce. I loved it but then I suffered for the rest of the day. The eggplants we get today are less assertive, and I at least will not lament for the lost pungency of this wonderfully versatile summer vegetable.

 

We have never been successful growing eggplants in our garden, but five years ago we managed to harvest a few small white ones (read more about our Eggplant Paradox). But there are other, more amusing eggplant paradoxes; some years ago I came across this confusion between the word ‘aubergine’ (the British term for eggplant) and Aborigin (!) If the words interest you, you will love it. (more…)

Share

Read More

Sweet and Sour Eggplants with Nuts, Raisins, Basil and Mint

 

I love melanzane alle noci e mandorle, the sweet and sour Calabrian eggplants that are crunchy with nuts and fragrant with basil and mint. They are great as a side dish with any cold meat, with grilled lamb chops or chicken legs. Traditionally, though, they are an antipasto (appetizer) served on the sideboard.

 

They also make a wonderful bruschetta if spread on toasted bread with shavings of parmesan, thin slices of mozzarella, manouri or sprinkled with crumbled feta. I often add grilled peppers –either home made, or store-bought– with the eggplants, and in the winter diced roasted squash is another interesting companion. Adjust the spicing of the  sauce accordingly.

Adapted from my Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.

 

 

Makes 6-8 appetizer servings

 

(more…)

Share

Read More

Eggplants Stuffed With Onions, Peppers, Cheese and Nuts

This is my tweak on a dish my mother used to make often in the summer. I usually bake the eggplants and make the sauce a day before, then sauté the onions and peppers and finish the dish the next day. It can also be baked 1-2 days before you plan to serve it; refrigerate it then gently reheat. I would say that it tastes better the next day.

 

 

Serves 4-8 (more…)

Share

Read More

Creamy Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

This is my take on  Hünkar, which  is traditionally prepared with sheep’s milk butter; but I find that this olive oil variation can be equally sumptuous. Cheese plays a very important role in my version and can alter the taste dramatically: Gruyere and cheddar make a richly sweet dish, but smoked cheddar or provolone combined with Feta adds a spicier note.

 

 

An Ottoman Sultan, a French Princess…and Hünkar Beğendi – all the necessary ingredients for romance, intrigue, and culinary invention.  According to legend this rich and creamy eggplant puree was created in the 18th century by one of the Sultan’s cooks.  The occasion was a dinner given in honor of a French Princess visiting the palace of the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. The French were known for their love of vegetable purees, so the cook paid homage to the Princess by presenting an Oriental version, using the Empire’s most admired vegetable.  The dish was a great success.  We know less about the Sultan’s pursuit of the Princess…

 

In Turkey and in Greece hünkar traditionally accompanies a tomato lamb or beef stew. I love it on its own, or topped with my  Basic Tomato Sauce. You can also serve it with braised kale or other hearty greens. Hünkar makes a great appetizer: serve it with toasted pita triangles to scoop-up the creamy puree or spread it on toasted, garlic-rubbed multi-grain bread.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8-10 as an appetizer (more…)

Share

Read More

Oven-cooked Eggplants and Peppers in Tomato Sauce

A kind of Greek, rustic ratatouille that can be made with any combination of summer vegetables. I particularly like it with just eggplants and green bell peppers plus plenty of onions and garlic, all baked slowly in my fragrant tomato sauce.

 

 

We can find all kinds of delicious eggplants here and choose whichever we want for our summer dishes. For this I prefer the long ones –which are similar to the Chinese and Japanese– because they better retain their shape. But any kind of eggplant is fine, and I strongly suggest you use the fresher you find in your farmer’s market —Molly Stevens explains beautifully the flavor variations between the various eggplants, which make little difference for this particular dish.

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

Share

Read More