Archives for posts with tag: eggplant

Eggplant

A few weekends ago over Easter there was a lot of food made and consumed in my kitchen, but really it wasn’t all fun and games. For most of the weekend I sat at the big dining table in my parents’ house writing a rather dry essay on 16th and 17th century news journalism. I squinted at texts written in barely discernible English where a S could have been a R or a F and stories told of malformed pigs and blood raining from the sky. No matter what you think of modern news journalism, I am thankful for the progress we have made.

Moosewood CookbookMarket shopping

My sister flew home for part of the weekend, setting up her laptop at the other end of the table, books and papers and computer cords filling the gap between us. There we sat, just like that, for most of the weekend, she plugging away on a lab report about grape disease and I trying to draw parallels between post-medieval and 21st century journalism.

Oil

And yet, in the midst of all this was food. Food seemed to transcend our immediate reality of assignments and university and settle us in an all the more ‘real’ reality – simply the need to be feed and nourished and sustained.

Cutting through dense flesh

On Friday before Georgie flew home Perrin and I hosted a dinner party. I made an Easter cake – the simplest cake if ever there was one – no need for beaters or excessive creaming, but the cake rose perfectly to a smooth, plainly flavoured, moist Madeira style cake. We made braised lamb with feta, potatoes and tomatoes; Perrin cut, oiled and spiced up pita pockets into crisps while I whizzed hummus together. We set a rice pilaf to cook later in the evening with slivered almonds and just-moist sultanas, counting out loud the (10) seconds of sizzle time of the cinnamon stick. There was a stellar quinoa salad made by Francesca and a banana cake from Catherine. My house was filled with noise – music, conversation, the scrape of chairs, the clink of eight glasses when it came time to toast – lovely really, for the rest of the weekend all we would hear is the tap-tap of a laptop keyboard. (And I confess this song played too loudly and danced to wildly when the prospect of typing another word seemed all too much.)

Eggplant halvesReady to roast

I picked Georgie up early on Easter Sunday and we drove straight to the market. We did away with the fruit bowl basics instead buying leeks – the white as long and as thick as my forearm, limes – an absolute steal at only $8/kilo, an eggplant with beautiful, high-gloss skin, and fire-truck red baby tomatoes. We bought packets of hot cross buns and returned home to eat them toasted and dripping with butter.

We had avocados smashed on toast with a runny yolk fried egg for lunch. Coffee and hot cross buns always dripping with butter continued all weekend – how else does Easter play out? In the evening we sat in the kitchen, our backs defiantly to the table covered with paper, and we drank Merlot. We picked the potatoes from the leftover lamb, reserving them to slice finely and fry the next day, but the lamb, as stews always are, was better on day two.

Roasted and wrinkled

On weekends like this one where what needs to be done is minimal – fill X amount of pages with X amount of words – yet the task is decidedly time consuming and complex, food is both a welcome distraction and a boost in productivity. I find I work best when part of my mind can freely think about lunch or dinner, when a meal plan begins to form and I can fry potatoes to golden crispy, lay on a spinach wrap spread with harissa and mayonnaise and top with spindly mesclun leaves. Or for dinner: thick, pink pork chops covered in salt and cooked on the pan and leeks braised in white wine, dijon mustard and vinegar to become tender ribbons, sharp and sweet. The creativity of cooking livens my senses and exercises my brain.

Hot roasted eggplantScoopedCrisp edge, soft within

Georgie made a lime tart – freshly squeezed limes – what a scent! And then came the eggplant, young and slender, of the most beautiful colour and weighty in my hand. I had a friend at school who loved the eggplant purely because she thought it would make a pleasing thwack when pelted at a wall, or a person, depending on her mood. (The same went for capsicums.) I strangely think about this every time I cut open a raw eggplant and hear the satisfying hiss and thud of the blade through the dense flesh. I resisted the urge to throw food at my walls and instead I made baba ganouj from the Moosewood Cookbook.

Empty skinsLemons for juicejuiced

There has already been a lot said about the Moosewood Cookbook, about the hand written recipes and hand drawn illustrations, about the beginning of a food movement and about the long reigning success of the book, so I’ll keep this brief. My mother has had a copy of the book for as long as I can remember but I never understood the significance of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook until I began to read about the cult-like following it has.

Baba GanoujLunchThe weekend view

The baba ganouj is simple and lovely as far as baba ganouj go. It’s creamy and oily, there is a richness but also a wonderful complexity of flavour: garlic and lemon, a smoky bitterness from the eggplant and a subtle nutty hint from the tahini. But roasting whole eggplants, their skins turning dark chocolate in colour and gorgeously wrinkly like that of a ripe passionfruit, and the burnt oil, smoky smell that filled my kitchen probably contributed to more words being written about early journalism and more pages being filled than any other kitchen activity all that long weekend.

Baba Ganouj from the Moosewood Cookbook
The only change I made to this recipe was the addition of a second roasted eggplant. Also, I do think this recipe benefits from resting time before serving.

2 tablespoons oil (for the baking sheet)
2 medium to large eggplants
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper or cayenne (I used a pinch of cayenne)
olive oil and freshly chopped parsley or coriander for the top

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Lightly oil a baking tray.
Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and place face down on the baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes or until very tender. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and discard the skins. Place the pulp in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, tahini and salt and pepper. Purée until desired consistency – I think it’s best with a few chunks of eggplant.
Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill. Before serving drizzle the top with oil and scatter over your choice of herbs.

A shadowIt’s funny sometimes how priorities change, stack up against each other, as if the different tasks and obligations one has are in competition with each other rather than with the time manager. This is how I feel sometimes, out of touch as everything seems to change around me, so I sit back and see what happens, see how the priorities rearrange themselves.
CauliflowerReady to roastAn eggplant
I realise, obviously, that how duties, assignments and relationships are prioritised and juggled is directed by me. There is not a universal power calling the shots telling me where to be, what to bring, who to email, who to call, what to read, what to write, how to eat well – though God, sometimes I wish there was. I’m a bit of a worry wart, an over-thinker. Some days my worries about things like climate change, recycling, the media, the food industry, the future, travel, careers, money (the list goes on) I find stimulating and motivating. But then there are days, as there have been recently, where I crave to be reckless, to be irresponsible, to live dangerously for a night – staying awake past midnight would be a good start.
ChoppedIn sunSlater like
At the moment, the best it gets is when I have to abandon everything I’m currently working on, leave the computer, put down the pen, and take care of the fruit and vegetables in my kitchen rapidly nearing the end of their life. There were peaches that needed doctoring earlier this week. Beautifully ripe, flavoursome and meaty golden queens, but with soft, brown spots dotting their velvet skins. I pan-roasted thin slices with butter, honey and cinnamon until the fruit was browned at the edges, golden of a different sort. All I had to take care of were those peaches.
LeekHalf rounds
Food – real food, good food – is my outlet, my down time. I like the quiet that settles over me when I look into the fridge or open the cupboard and know that soup can be made, a salad can be tossed and a cake can be baked. When I am in the kitchen everything else falls by the wayside and the desire to be nourished and to provide takes over – I like it most when this becomes priority number one.
RoastedGreen chilli
That is how we came to have this soup the other night, this earthy red, fiery, richly flavoured soup. With vegetables on hand I found myself there, in the kitchen, present in that moment, chopping carrots and an eggplant, de-seeding a red capsicum, dicing cauliflower florets and peeling cloves of garlic. When tossed with oil, salt, pepper and then baked, vegetables will always soften, sweeten. When soft, sweet roasted vegetables are added to a pot of spicy, lemony cooked leeks with vegetable stock and seasoning, well, there’s no going wrong.
Soup oneSoup two
Like most soups and stews, the flavours need a little time to develop. But after a day, or two, the lemon comes through and the chilli adds a heftiness, coating your mouth and stinging your lips. “Wake up!” it says. You can taste the vegetables, every one if you feel your way – the carrots are earthy and the capsicum is sweet, while the eggplant adds a smooth richness and the cauliflower is present in a “sturdy guy at the back” kind of way. The slow cooked vegetables, allowed to soften and crisp in equal measure, give the soup substance and make a hot bowlfull the right meal, the right answer to whatever is on your mind.

Spicy Roast Vegetable Soup
The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my favourite food blogs, Food Loves Writing. Like Shanna says, it’s more method than recipe when it comes to making soup like this. My soup was on the thicker end of the soup-consistency spectrum and I thought this would be perfect to slump over some hot brown rice or other cooked grain.

Take a bunch of vegetables, chop them into roughly the same size, toss with a good glug of oil and seasoning then roast for at least an hour at 180°C until tender and golden.

While the vegetables cook take a leek or a large onion, chop into half rounds and cook in a large pot with a splash of oil and knob of butter, with chopped up chillis, garlic, ginger, lemon peel and any other spices you like. Once soften remove from heat and leave to sit.

Once the vegetables are cooked, return the onion pot to the heat and add the roasted vegetables with enough stock to just about cover and the juice of a whole lemon. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for a few minutes then purée.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or spiced yoghurt.