Saturday, August 8, 2009

Savoring Good Food III--Enjoying Eggplant & Eggplant Recipes

For our final eggplant post (hasn't this been fun?), I will provide a recipe or two. Eggplant is good in a variety of sauteed or stewed vegetable mixtures, combining well with summer squash, sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and onions (as in ratatouille, pictured here), but is also delicious and attractive with green beans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and corn, or with garlic, onions and mushrooms. Whatever sounds good to you is worth a try, in my opinion--and you may create a new family favorite.
I won't repeat the tips from last time, so check that post for ideas to reduce both the oiliness and calories of some recipes and the bitter edge cooked eggplant can have. The recipes will make this post longer than usual, but I hope they will be of interest to some of my readers.
Here is my modified version of the classic vegetable stew called ratatouille (simpler and less fattening than the original). It can be made a day or two ahead of a meal and reheated or can be frozen. The photo in our last post showed the main ingredients. I will list the amounts of each ingredient I used in the dish pictured above (which makes enough for two or three meals for the two of us, even though we are big vegetable eaters); it would probably serve 8 people. A very flexible recipe, ratatouille can have more or less of any of the vegetables, to suit your preferences.
Health Spa Ratatouille
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1 medium eggplant, lengthwise strips of peel removed, then cut in thick crosswise slices
2 zucchini, lightly scraped, in 2" chunks
2 yellow summer squash, in 2" chunks
cooking spray
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium sweet onions in 1/2" chunks (Vidalia onions are wonderful when available)
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed & chopped
1 large sweet pepper (any color), in 1/2" chunks
2 large tomatoes, cut in chunks (I had a couple of pounds of grape tomatoes and used an equivalent quantity of them instead, just tossing them in whole, crushing some with the spoon while cooking.)
1/4 - 1/2 cup (according to your taste) chopped fresh parsley
dash sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1) If you wish, sprinkle eggplant with salt, sweat, and rinse (see previous post). I skipped that step this time.
2) Spray a large cookie sheet or two (easiest if they have a rim) with cooking spray and fit eggplant slices and squash chunks on. Spray top of all vegetables with cooking spray. Then bake at 425 degrees until lightly browned & slightly softened--about 8 - 11 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy skillet (12" X 2-3" deep), then saute onions and sweet peppers over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring well a few times. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more.
4) Add eggplant & squash to skillet with another 1 Tbsp. olive oil (no need to cut up the eggplant slices; they will break up as you cook and stir). I sprinkle 1/8 tsp. or less sugar over the vegetables to bring out the sweetness (optional). Cover & simmer for 10 - 12 minutes.
5) Add tomatoes to skillet & simmer 5 minutes more, stirring a few times, or until vegetables break up and are quite soft. Of course, if you wish, you can reduce the cooking time, but this is more typically a stew texture rather than a tender-crisp texture.
6) Add parsley last minute or two of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste and serve right from the skillet. It waits well if your guests or your entree are delayed.
Ratatouille freezes well, so you can make a big batch and get several meals from it. It is good served hot, room temperature, or cooled. Delicious for a simple meal with grainy bread and cheese wedges, or with any meat, poultry, or fish -- or for vegans, with a whole grain and nuts dish.
We also love eggplant stuffed with a ground meat mixture and baked. Eggplant is the perfect shape to stuff with any mixture you can dream up, whether brown rice, herbs, and nuts or barley & cooked chicken--or whatever--then steam or roast. Beyond these ideas, good sources for eggplant ideas are Turkish or Mediterranean cookbooks. When we were in Turkey, we enjoyed a variety of eggplant treats, including dishes that were grilled, stewed, roasted, sauteed, pickled, salad combos, appetizers in phyllo with eggplant and cheese fillings, baba ghanoush, and more.
Turkish Stuffed Eggplant (serves 2)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1 medium-large eggplant
cooking spray & olive oil
1/2 # lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
salt & ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, in 6 thin slices
Those are all the ingredients in my Turkish cookbook. I always add:
fresh chopped basil, and sometimes rosemary or oregano
1) Peel the eggplant in lengthwise stripes. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a 1/2" shell (looks like a canoe). Coarsely chop flesh and set aside in large bowl.
2) Spray a large oven-proof skillet with cooking oil, heat over medium-high burner and cook the meat, onion, and tomato paste together until meat loses pink color. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and herbs if desired, adding chopped parsley last minute of cooking. Drain off grease and add to bowl with chopped eggplant, stirring well.
3) Re-spray skillet well, add a little olive oil, and lightly saute the eggplant canoes on all sides until lightly browned.
4) Remove skillet from heat, turn eggplant canoes open side up and fill with eggplant/meat mixture.
5) Top with fresh tomato slices. Pour 1 cup water into the skillet. Roast uncovered in oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve with your favorite rice or couscous dish and a green salad or vegetable.
Question of the day: What is your favorite, versatile vegetable? How do you prepare it?

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