Archives for posts with tag: Eggplant

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You know when it’s hot and muggy and you can’t decide if you want cold food or hot food or no food at all? Real food or just, like, watermelon for dinner? It wasn’t even that hot last night here in NYC but I had dark chocolate sorbet for dinner (the kind from Ciao Bella Gelato—it’s dairy free and has this weird chalky texture I like).

But the thing I like about this dish—adapted from Plenty/Yotam Ottolenghi—is it’s excellent cold, warm, or room temperature. It’s the perfect dish to pack up for lunch, bring on a picnic, or eat in front of your computer (where, let’s be honest, I eat more of my meals than on a picnic blanket). Now, it does require a little bit of heat because you broil the eggplants in your oven or char them on your gas burner. Of course, if you have a real grill (but I live in an apartment in Brooklyn with no such luxury) you could probably put the eggplants right in the coals to do this. Whether you grill over your burner or broil in your oven remember to prick the eggplant multiple times with a knife to prevent the flesh from popping through the skin when it gets hot.

In addition to the lentils and the eggplant you can toss in any number of vegetables you may have, adapting to what’s in season. I picked up some beautiful radishes at the farmer’s market on Saturday that would be great in this, or any combination of fresh herbs.

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant
adapted from Plenty

2 thin, long eggplants
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1 cup small dark lentils (small green or Puy), rinsed
3 small carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 small onion, white or yellow
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2/3 c cherry tomatoes, halved (about 12-15)
1/3 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill)
1 cup chopped salad greens or spinach (optional)
2 tbsp yogurt or crème fraîche

Cook the eggplants: the best way to really char the eggplants is to grill over the open flame on your burner, rotating with metal tongs and taking care to ensure they don’t catch on fire. I put the vent on high to trap any smoke that’s produced. You may want to first line the area around two burners of your stove with aluminum foil to protect them from splatters. Now it’s key that you buy thin eggplants as opposed to the more common fatter eggplants you see in American grocery stores. These wider ones (I learned the hard way) don’t cook through all the way. So if you have the thin kind they should blacken on your stove in 12 to 15 minutes. If you only have the standard wide ones, like I did, grill over the burner for 12–15 minutes and then transfer to your oven on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish, set the broiler on high, and cook for additional 10–15 minutes to cook all the way through. Alternatively you can broil them like this in your oven for the entire time, approximately 1 hour for wide ones, turning them a few times. The eggplants should deflate completely and the skin should burn and break.

Remove the eggplants from the heat. If you used your oven change the setting from broil to 275F. Cut the eggplants in half and let the steam escape. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh (avoiding the blackened skin) into a colander and let any liquid drain off for about 15 minutes. Then season with salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice.

While the eggplants are broiling, place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot, one celery stalk, and the onion each in half and toss in the saucepan. Cover with plenty of cold water, and add the bay leaf and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are cooked but not mushy. Drain the lentils and discard the onion, carrot, celery, and herbs. Transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl and add the remaining lemon juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.

Cut the remaining carrot and celery into small pieces and mix with the halved tomatoes, remaining oil, sugar, and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook for about 20 minutes, until the carrot is tender but firm. Add the cooked vegetables to the lentils, followed by the herbs and greens (if using). Taste and adjust for seasoning (I had to use quite a bit of salt to get it just right). Spoon the lentils into your serving dish, followed by a spoonful of eggplant, then the yogurt or crème fraîche, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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My friend Amy and I were finally able to shop at the co-op now that Irene was well in our past and the checkout line wasn’t snaking out the door. We had plans to make dinner together Friday evening but were unsure what to make. In the produce aisle Amy suggested an Indian curry. We had come for spices anyway so it seemed like a good idea.

Armed with Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, we decided on a variation of her Masoor Dal, or Red LentilTarka. Tarka refers to cooking spices briefly in hot oil, to bring out their flavors. The lentils cook down to a creamy, luscious consistency and the garam masala and dried red chiles bring the heat.

In addition to the red lentils, we had an armful of local eggplants and long thin okra. Feeling bold we decided to improvise an okra-eggplant curry. We sautéed a chopped onion in two tbsp of ghee then added about 4 c of chopped eggplant. After the eggplant was soft (maybe 10 minutes) we added chopped okra, a large pinch of garam masala and salt, and 3-4 c of chicken stock. We let that simmer down for a half hour or so, until thick, and served in addition to the red lentils.

Red Lentil Tarka
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Masoor Dal

1 c red lentils (a.k.a. masoor dal)
4 c water or stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 slice fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter, chopped
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee (plus more if using onions and garlic)
1 pinch garam masala (recipe here)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chile peppers
optional: 1 onion, chopped; 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped; 3/4 c diced tomatoes

Clean the lentils well and discard any small pebbles. Place the lentils in a three-quart pot with 4 c of water or stock and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and turmeric, turn the heat to low and cover leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Approx. 10 minutes before your lentils are done, if you are using onions and garlic, heat approx. 2 tbsp of ghee or vegetable oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook for 5-10 minutes, then add the garlic and tomatoes (optional, but they’re so good this time of year why not?) and cook for a couple more minutes. Transfer the onion mixture from the skillet to the lentils, leaving the oil in your skillet.

Add an additional 2 tbsp of ghee or oil to the skillet and heat on medium. When hot, add the garam masala, cumin seeds, and red hot peppers and cook for approx. 10 seconds. Quickly add the spice mixture to the lentils and cover with a lid. Let all the ingredients simmer together for another few minutes before serving. If the dal seems too liquidy at this point you can simmer for longer, uncovered, to let some of the liquid evaporate. Add the salt and season to your liking.

Serve with basmati rice and thick yogurt, raita, or pickled vegetables or chutneys.

What do you make in August, peak of the summer harvest, when stands at the farmers market overflow with zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes?

Ratatouille! Traditionally a French Provençal dish of stewed vegetables and herbs, ratatouille is a meal on its own, makes for a great lunch, or can be paired with grilled meats. Yuji suggested preparing it with lamb in the same pot which actually sounds quite good. Next time. Variations on the recipe abound, and my own changes include the addition of chickpeas and a garnish of grated Parmesan (or Ricotta Salata, as I used last night).

The first time I tried something like ratatouille was about twelve years ago, when my step-mom Bonnie made a quick dinner of whole canned tomatoes, eggplant, and chickpeas. I believe she didn’t even use garlic or an onion. To my young taste buds this dish was a revelation.

Since then I’ve tinkered and tweaked, and like the recipe below. I sometimes make more of a sauce to serve over pasta (more tomatoes, more olive oil), but no longer make the variation that included tofu. (Hey, you learn by making mistakes.)

Julia Child’s ratatouille recipe will probably produce good results but seemed overly fussy to me, too many steps for what is essentially simple, peasant fare. (Yuji thought I described the dish as “prison” food instead of “peasant” food. Who knows, maybe they do serve ratatouille in French prisons.)

Here is my version, which makes enough for lots of leftovers, and is hard to mess up.

As an aside I just have to say I miss playing with my friends’ Canon 7D Digital SLR camera on Long Island. That’s what took the photos of my blog posts from out there and it’s hard to go back to the ole iPhone so I’m saving up for a serious upgrade.

Summer Ratatouille

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium to large eggplants or 3 small, chopped in roughly 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
2 zucchinis, roughly chopped
1 large red or white onion, or 2 smaller
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped, plus a few stems with leaves still on
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pint Sun Golds, halved, or 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c dried chick peas, soaked and cooked, or 1 12-oz can, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
Parmesan or Ricotta Salata, for garnish

Serves 4-5 as a main, 6-7 as a side

1. Heat the oil in a large sautée pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat until the eggplant becomes soft and golden, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Then add the zucchini, stirring occasionally, until mostly softened, 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook an additional few minutes, stirring. Next add the chopped thyme and a couple stems, which you will discard later. After a few minutes add the garlic.

3. Add the tomatoes, cook until they begin to fall apart, then add the chickpeas. Let this cook for another 5-10 minutes then remove from heat and fish out the thyme stems and discard. Garnish with basil and grated cheese. Serve on its own, with nice crusty bread and butter, or with grilled chicken or lamb.

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