In preparing to write this blog post, I read a bit about the history of the fruit. I learned that eggplant is thought to have originated in India and/or China and has been part of those regional cuisines since 500 BCE. Its popularity has obviously spread across the planet and I was fascinated to learn of its many names: gully bean, Jew's apple, terong, Guinea squash, mala insana (mad apple), brinjal, aubergine, egg fruit and apple-of-love....to name a few. No matter the name, it is a favorite garden product and I love the many ways it can be prepared. I am sharing a couple recipes that are tried-and-true standards. One is an original from my friend Ben Davis, and the other from a favorite cookbook, Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ben's Eggplant serves 6 as a main course over rice and 8 as a side
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 lg. onions, diced
2 tbsp. peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2-3 lg. garlic cloves minced
2 lg. eggplants cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
3 tbsp. ketchup
1 can of lite coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter, any kind
1 tbsp sirracha (sp?) or another favorite hot chile paste
Heat oil over med., add spices and fry until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until they are soft and the onions are becoming translucent. Add eggplant, ketchup, coconut milk and water. Cover and cook it, stirring regularly, until the eggplant breaks down and is fairly mushy. Add the peanut butter and salt to taste. Add chile paste. Taste the concoction and see if you would like to increase any of the flavors. Be careful with the peanut butter, it can dominate the tongue's flavor sensors. Add more water if you think it is reducing too quickly before the eggplant breaks down.
I have served this immediately, or held it in the fridge for a few days. It is great either way.
Eggplant with Pomegranate Sauce serves 6
1 1/2 lbs slender Asian eggplant
a little olive oil to coat pan and brush on eggplant
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses (you can get this at any decent grocery store now...wonder of wonders)
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove crushed into a puree with 1/2 tsp. salt. (I use a mortar and pestle)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp. fresh mint chopped, preferably spearmint
1 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley
3 or 4 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds (You can freeze the extras I am told.)
Preheat oven to 425. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Slice the eggplant into 1/2" pieces on the diagonal. Spread the slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush with a little olive oil and bake for 12 minutes on each side until they are lightly browned. Transfer to a shallow serving dish, overlapping slightly. Cook longer if necessary to get it lightly browned.
In a sm. bowl, combine pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, salt and olive oil; blend well. Drizzle over the eggplant slices. Top with mint, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Paula recommends making it the day before to let the flavors meld. I sometimes do that, sometimes not. It is fabulous either way. It is best at room temp.