face it, eggplant is weird.
a funny shape. It has a funny name. It has a funny taste.
an all-or-nothing vegetable (technically, itís a fruit,
but letís not go there). You either love it or you hate
happen to love it. I love its mushy texture and the
disconcerting way it has of absorbing all the oil you cook
it in. I love the different shapes it comes in, and colors.
I love the way it goes with garlic and with tomatoes and
with olive oil. I especially love the way it goes with lamb.
flavors blend as blissfully and synergistically as eggplant
and lamb. Chocolate and caramel, perhaps. Ketchup and french
there is something special, something almost unworldly about
the blending of flavors you get when lamb meets eggplant.
And so, for my first eggplant-related dish, I decided to
make a casserole of lamb and eggplant with garlic.
a lot of work. To be honest, all of the eggplant dishes I
made, except one, were more work than I thought they were
going to be. But they were all well worth it, especially the
special. Almost unworldly.
is popular all around the Mediterranean, and indeed this
recipe comes from Provence. The author of the cookbook it
was featured in, Jane Sigal, says, "if they made
cassoulet in Provence, it might taste like this."
lamb, eggplant and onions are all browned in olive oil and
then braised in a cup of chicken stock. After it bakes, it
is covered in a bread-crumb topping that adds an entirely
new dimension because it is made with a lot of garlic. Also,
butter and olive oil. Itís hard to go wrong with butter
and olive oil.
because we were dealing with eggplant, I made eggplant
parmesan. Of course I did.
appropriated the method of frying eggplant from Bon Appetit
magazine. They dredge their lengthwise-sliced eggplant in
ground panko bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese mixed
with oregano and pepper. I liked the crisp texture this
produced better than the other way I tried it, which was
essentially an Italian form of tempura.
tempura version tasted great, but it ended up being a little
greasy when mixed with the other ingredients. For a sauce, I
used my favorite, bright-tasting marinara, and between
layers I sprinkled plenty of parmesan and mozzarella
Italy, I moved farther east, to Greece, and a wonderful,
multipurpose spread. Itís called pepper spread because,
frankly, the main flavor is roasted red peppers. But it also
has some eggplant in it, which lends a subtle undertone to
the sweet and pungent red peppers and the heat from a
handful of serranos. Crushed tomatoes ó I used the canned
stuff ó tempers and blends the flavors.
recipe makes an enormous amount of the spread, about six
cups. But it lasts forever in the fridge, and it can be used
in countless ways. I spread it on pita, but I also put it on
a hamburger. Eggs, Iím sure, will be next.
I headed east once more, to Israel and the only truly easy
dish of the week. I have been making eggplant carpaccio for
years. Basically, itís a roasted eggplant that is split
open and then filled with lots of goodies.
can roast the eggplant on a grill, which gives it the best
flavor, or on top of a burner if your stove is fitted for
gas. If need be, you can roast it under a broiler in an
it is soft all over, then comes the fun part. Just spoon on
some tahini, yogurt, tomatoes, honey, lemon juice, olive
oil, garlic, hot pepper and a sprig or two of oregano, plus
salt and pepper.
can leave out an ingredient or two if you want, or add more.
Thatís how eggplant works. Itís weird, but itís great.
OF LAMB AND EGGPLANT WITH GARLIC
pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces,
or lamb stew meat
cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed,
medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
bouquet garni (1 branch fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
thyme, 6 parsley stems and 1 bay leaf tied in a bundle with
kitchen string or cheesecloth)
cup bread crumbs
large garlic cloves, peeled
cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sprinkle the pieces of lamb with salt. In a cast-iron or
heavy skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the oil over medium heat. Add
the pieces of lamb to the oil in batches, brown them all
over, 5 to 7 minutes per batch, then transfer to a large
the onions to the same pan and cook, stirring, until they
are tinged with brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add them to the lamb
in the casserole. In the same skillet, brown the eggplant in
batches with a little salt and add it to the lamb. Add oil
while cooking the eggplant if it looks too dry.
Pour the stock into the lamb casserole and tuck in the
bouquet garni. Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake,
uncovered, until the lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir
the mixture 2 or 3 times while cooking. Discard the bouquet
garni. Add pepper and taste for seasoning. (The casserole
can be cooked to this point a day or two ahead and chilled.
Reheat, covered, in a 350 degree oven before proceeding).
While the lamb cooks, make the topping. Add the bread crumbs
to a food processor and slice in the garlic. Pulse until the
garlic is coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and pulse until
everything is finely chopped. In a pan, melt the butter with
the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the bread-crumb
mixture and stir until evenly coated with the butter.
Heat the broiler. Sprinkle the topping over the lamb
mixture. Put the casserole on an oven rack so the topping is
about 2 inches from the heat and broil until lightly
browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully and turn the
casserole as necessary to the topping browns evenly and
doesnít burn. Serve as soon as possible.
serving: 561 calories; 41 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 88 mg
cholesterol; 26 g protein; 23 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 6 g
fiber; 384 mg sodium; 69 mg calcium
from "Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fare: A French
Country Cookbook," by Jane Sigal
(28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, good quality
cup olive oil
cup chopped onion
garlic clove, crushed
panko bread crumbs
teaspoons dried oregano
teaspoon black pepper
cups finely grated parmesan cheese, divided
cups all-purpose flour
large eggs, beaten to blend
olive oil, divided
ounces low-moisture mozzarella, grated
ounces sliced mozzarella
the marinara: Cut off and discard the hard stems of the
tomatoes and crush the tomatoes with your hands (be sure to
wear an apron). Reserve the juice. Heat the 1/4 cup olive
oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and
garlic and sautť until the onion is translucent, about 3 to
5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Cook at a low
simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 1
the eggplant: While the marinara is cooking, peel the
eggplant and slice it it lengthwise in pieces 1/2 inch to
3/4 inch thick. Lightly season slices all over with salt;
place in a single layer on several layers of paper towels
inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top with another layer of
paper towels and more slices; repeat as needed. Top with a
final layer of paper towels, then another rimmed baking
sheet; weigh down with a heavy pot. Let eggplant sit until
it has released excess liquid, 45 to 60 minutes. This step
gives the eggplant a creamy texture when baked.
Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper and 3/4 cup of the
parmesan in a food processor until very finely ground.
Transfer to a shallow bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour on a plate or in a
shallow bowl and eggs in another shallow bowl. Working one
at at time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in
egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in bread crumb
mixture, packing all around, then shaking off excess. Place
on wire racks.
Heat 1 cup oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron,
over medium-high heat. Heat until oil temperature reaches
350 degrees (if you donít have a thermometer, dip a corner
of a slice of eggplant in the oil; if it immediately begins
to bubble and fry, the oil is ready). Cook as many eggplant
slices as will comfortably fit in pan, turning once, until
deep golden, about 5 minutes in total. Transfer to paper
towels and immediately press with more paper towels to
absorb oil. Season with salt and cool on wire racks.
Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding
remaining 1 cup oil and wiping out skillet as needed.
Toss together remaining 3/4 cup parmesan and grated
mozzarella cheeses. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a
13-by-9-inch baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant
slices, trimming as needed. Drizzle 1 cup sauce (or a little
more, if needed to cover) over eggplant and sprinkle with
1/3 of the cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant,
followed by 1 cup sauce (or a little more) and half of the
remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layers with the remaining
slices, sauce and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake
on a rimmed baking sheet until eggplant is custardy, 45 to
Remove from oven and arrange mozzarella slices over
eggplant. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake,
uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15
to 20 minutes longer. Let rest 30 minutes before serving.
This dish can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered in foil
and refrigerated (once cooled). Reheat at 350 degrees,
uncovering halfway through, until bubbling gently at edges.
serving: 671 calories; 45 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 105 mg
cholesterol; 21 g protein; 49 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 10
g fiber; 737 mg sodium; 416 mg calcium
from a recipe in Bon Appťtit
About 6 cups
10 small thin hot peppers, such as serranos, seeded and
pounds red bell peppers, roasted and peeled, see note
large eggplant, about 1 pound, roasted and peeled, see note
canned crushed tomatoes
cup olive oil, divided
garlic cloves, minced
cup finely chopped parsley
To roast red peppers, place on a foil-covered baking sheet
in a 425 degree oven. Cook until charred and softened all
over, about 25 to 30 minutes. Place in a paper bag and close
the bag or wrap individually in plastic wrap (after first
allowing to cool slightly for a few minutes). Let sit 15
minutes. You should be able to pull off the skin easily with
your fingers. Remove the stem and discard all the seeds.
roast eggplant, place it on a grill or on a cooking element
over a gas burner, turning frequently until charred and
softened all over. Or, poke holes all over with a fork and
broil it in the oven about 8 inches from the heat source.
Turn frequently until softened all over.
Puree the hot peppers in a food processor, then add the
roasted bell peppers and eggplant and continue processing
Combine the puree and crushed tomatoes in a large pot and
bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly,
until thickened slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1/4
cup of the olive oil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the
sauce thickens and cooks down, about another hour. Add the
remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic and the parsley,
season with salt, and continue to cook, stirring, until all
the liquid has cooked off, 15 minutes or so. Let cool
slightly and spoon into a large, clean glass jar. Let it
cool in the jar, cover tightly with the lid and store in the
refrigerator. The pepper spread will keep indefinitely.
(2-tablespoon) serving: 38 calories; 2 g fat; no saturated
fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 4 g carbohydrate; 3 g
sugar; 1 g fiber; 25 mg sodium; 12 mg calcium
from "The Glorious Foods of Greece," by Diane
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
teaspoon crushed garlic
teaspoon chopped hot green pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small bunch of fresh hyssop or oregano leaves
Roast the eggplants by placing them on a grill or on a
cooking element over a gas burner, turning frequently until
charred and softened all over. Or, poke holes all over with
a fork and broil them in the oven about 8 inches from the
heat source. Turn frequently until softened all over.
Cool slightly and cut open. Place each eggplant on a plate
and flatten slightly with a fork.
Pour small puddles of tahini, yogurt, honey, olive oil and
lemon juice over the eggplant. Spoon out the contents of 1/2
of one tomato over each eggplant. Season with garlic, hot
pepper, salt and pepper. Garnish with hyssop or oregano and
serving: 512 calories; 37 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 2 mg
cholesterol; 9 g protein; 46 g carbohydrate; 28 g sugar; 19
g fiber; 78 mg sodium; 143 mg calcium
from "The Book of New Israel Food: A Culinary
Journey," by Janna Gur