Monday, June 11, 2007

Eggplant feast

We had some good friends over this weekend to help out with our eggplant overproduction problems... Both my 'Black Beauty' and 'Little Fingers' plants are producing loads of eggplants, which might be my favorite veg. I put together a sort of south-eastern Mediterranean feast, with Macedonian, Greek, and Turkish and Georgian foods. (Yes, I know Georgia isn't geographically linked to the Mediterranean, but culinarily and culturally there is a great deal of affinity, as Paula Wolfert argues in her book, The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.) The premise was that the veg all be from the garden and that everything was to be served room temperature -- perfect for a hot Florida evening. I used my leaf celery for the first time. Delish. The plant seems to really appreciate a lot of shade, and doesn't grow very quickly. But the leaves have a very potent and clean celery flavor.

From Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, an excellent cookbook that explores a totally and unjustly disregarded region of the world.


Not many vegetables taste better than eggplant tried in olive oil. The Georgians have a special frying method that eliminates greasiness without sacrificing taste. They split baby eggplants down the middle, then slip them, flesh side down, into a well-seasoned skillet (I use a non—stick skillet) with a small amount of oil. The skillet is covered so that the eggplants fry and steam at the same time.

Serves 6

  • 12 baby eggplants or 6 Japanese eggplants (about 2 pounds total weight), halved lengthwise
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt


  • 2 cups (7 ounces) walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika or more to taste ¼ teaspoon
  • ground marigold petals or ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • ¼ minced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons mild vinegar, preferably rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. Sprinkle the cut sides of the eggplants with 1 teaspoon of the salt and place cut side down, on paper toweling. Weigh down with plates 20 minutes. Rinse the eggplants under running water and then gently squeeze out the moisture; pal dry with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, in a processor, combine the walnuts with the garlic, paprika. marigold petals, and the remaining teaspoon of the salt. Puree until an oily paste forms. Add cup water and process to blend. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and stir in the celery, basil, coriander, onion, and vinegar. Fold in he pomegranate seeds. Cover and set aside.
3. In a the non—stick skillet, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add all the eggplants cut side down. Cover tightly and cook until the flesh is golden brown and the eggplants are very tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. (If the skillet is not large enough, you will have to cook the eggplants in batches.
4. With your fingers, press open the middle of the cut side of each eggplant. Mound the walnut ffilling into each eggplant half and serve warm or at room temperature. Gardnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

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