In which I do battle with a giant purple vegetable and win - Tactical Ninja
Mar. 20th, 2012
09:11 am - In which I do battle with a giant purple vegetable and win
I've always thought eggplants were beautiful, but been afraid of eating them. They feel weird when you squeeze them and had that aura of 'potentially a sweet mushy vegetable' about them, and I've found that offputting. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin, kumara and the like either. There's something about the texture combined with the sweetness that just doesn't work for me in what is supposed to be a savoury meal. It seemed to me that eggplant might be the same.
However, in the interest of continuing to expand my cooking horizons and because the latest box of couscous had a recipe on the back of it, I decided to overcome my eggplantphobia and have a go at cooking (and eating) one.
First, take your eggplant:
not shown actual size
The recipe called for four baby ones but this is New Zealand, we have 2 choices of eggplant at this time of year and none of them were very baby looking. There were these pink banana-looking ones that it turns out are Chinese eggplants but I'd never seen them before and figured going for your bog standard globe one might be better for a start. So I got one that looked about the size of four baby ones. Bearing in mind I have no idea what size a baby eggplant is..
The other thing I had to get was sumac, which it turns out they don't have in New World (in fact they don't know what it is and since I didn't either it was a bit hopeless). However, I have google and it turns out it's a spice and the Nut Store in Cuba St has it.
Seems eggplant can be bitter and you can reduce this and also improve the texture (read: make it more creamy* O.o) by salting it for an hour:
Chopped into slices, peeled (which they say you don't have to do but apparently the skin is tough and I hate fiddly food so I did), salted both sides and left in a colander for an hour. Meanwhile, the recipe also called for lamb back straps. I don't normally buy lamb these days because I can't equate the wiggly things I cut the wool off on Saturday being worth $16 a kilo (at about 30 kilos dressed weight) when I get $3-$7 for ministering to them. Also, supermarket lamb is often ram lamb and I can taste it. This time though I thought "Why the hell not?" And I lucked out because it was not ram.
Olive oil with sumac (also sat for an hour) painted over the meat, then sprinkled with thyme. The recipe called for coriander but EW YUCK CORIANDER BLEH BLEH BLEH and I had the thyme up my sleeve** so thyme it was. Into the oven with this pretty mess for a good grilling. Meanwhile...
Eggplant chips, after being rinsed off and getting dried on their way to the oven. Next time I'll rinse them a bit better because they were somewhat salty still when we ate them. Then some tomatoes, also sliced, went in with the eggplant on top of the lamb after it was turned over. And since this was a couscous recipe, there was also some couscous. Ten minutes and a sprinking of thyme (a short thyme?) later, voila!
Foodstuffs! That we ate, and nobody died! Again! I am developing a decent record of people not dying after I cook for them. I would love to know how chefs manage to put stuff on plates without getting splashes of stuff on the sides. Maybe they have a special stuff-putting tool?
* I am mildy weirded out by the prospect of creamy vegetables.
The verdict? I think I quite like it. The prep is a bit of a pain but I suspect with practice I'd get better at it, and in terms of vegies that lend substance and variety of flavour to a meal, I'm sold. I've been trying to cook more meals without meat, so having another tasty vegie in my repertoire is a bonus.
This is your cue to post your favourite eggplant recipe because I can't rely on the couscous packet to keep supplying me with ideas, eh?
Meanwhile, yesterday I outed myself to my lecturer. He's now aware that this isn't my first go-round with drug policy issues. I'm not sure how I feel about that (I am afraid that it changes expectations) but I kind of knew I wouldn't be able to keep quiet for long. Ah well. Best be doing well at it then eh?