There were two vegetables I absolutely never wanted near me as a child: okra and eggplant. I have gotten over my distaste for okra. You can find my Palestinian okra stew recipe here. I have also lately been trying to perfect my fried okra recipe. It is easy, quick, and delicious, and I will add that recipe soon as well.
Eggplant, however, is another story. When I studies abroad in France, I tasted eggplant once and fell in love! How did they cook it? Why did it taste so different? I have yet to figure out the French culinary secret to delicious eggplant: is it their variety of eggplant? Or is it the way that they cook eggplant? I have been told that I need only to cover eggplant in salt to suck the bitter out. I haven’t tried it yet, and I’m still working on it. But in the meantime, as a lover of food I really dislike the idea of not liking a vegetable! So I have been cooking eggplant, trying new things with it. I have two recipes below that turned out to be quite delicious! And I made them both up with whatever I had in the refrigerator.
1. Eggplant Dip
I will not call it baba ghannouj, because my father would have a fit. I had eggplant in the fridge, and my neighbor was having a party to which I wanted to contribute something.
1 large whole eggplant
3 tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half and lay both halves face down on an oven tray, and bake until it is cooked. I’m not good with keeping time, but I would say about 30-40 minutes should do it. You want the roasted eggplant to be soft enough to mash with a fork. While it is in the oven, roast or fry your diced tomatoes with the minced garlic. When I cooked this, I fried the tomatoes because the oven was being used by others and because I wanted to finish the dish in time to come out with the rest of the food. I would suggest (and at some point I will try) roasting the tomatoes and the garlic cloves whole. When everything is roasted or fried, put them all in a bowl together and mash them up. I served the dip with flour tortilla that I had which I baked and turned into tortilla chips. It was absolutely delicious, healthy, and very easy!
2. Roasted eggplant with couscous (or any other grain)
As an Arab, I do not consider a meal to be dinner without a grain: rice, couscous, bulgher wheat, etc. I am going out of town and do not want to get groceries until I come back. I had eggplant, broccoli, and tomatoes in my fridge, and I had couscous in the pantry. So I made two vegetable dishes to go with my couscous. Again, I invented these with what I found in my kitchen, and they turned out delicious! My neighbor/adopted mother and harsh critic Mina joined me for dinner, and she had nothing but good things to say about dinner. Another win with the eggplant!
salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 430 degrees. I sliced the eggplant vertically into several slices and laid them on a baking sheet, this time with the skins facing down. Then in a bowl I mixed together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Basically I thought of the Mediterranean flavors that I thought might go well on the eggplant, so you can come up with your own variation. I poured this vinaigrette over the eggplant and popped the eggplant into the oven. I took Chiquita for a walk and we visited Mina and invited her to come over for dinner. I would say I roasted the eggplant for about 40 minutes. I simply kept checking up on it by poking it or tasting it. I will come up with a better method one day!
When I felt that they were cooked through, I pulled each slice out of the oven, diced it up into chunky pieces, and tossed them in a bowl. That was it! I served it with a side of couscous alongside those other roasted veggies (recipe coming soon!) and it was absolutely delicious. Again, very healthy!