Aubergines or eggplants have been the stars of our jardin potager this season, flourishing so beautifully while other crops fried on the vine when summertime temperatures hit 40 degrees C plus.
Peter and I have just returned from another seaside adventure and on arriving home both of us made a beeline to the kitchen garden (or jardin potager, as I sometimes romantically refer to our vegie patch!). Within moments of stepping out of the Jeep, Peter was gauging the size of the baby pumpkins, while I was pulling back the leaves on the aubergine plants to check on the status of two fruits I'd noticed on the day of our departure a week before. 'Look how much these have grown,' I exclaimed, excited at the prospect of cooking freshly harvested home-grown produce for dinner. 'Wow!,' Peter said. 'Look at how many flowers there are on that bush,' he added. 'Will each of those grow into fruit too?'. 'Yep, they will, and quickly too,' I smiled. The little bush was completely covered in ballerina-like flowers and I am in awe of the fact that each one might turn into fruit, all going well! This is the first time I've grown aubergines and it's turning out to be a positive experience.
Aubergine, or eggplant, is a member of the 'nightshade family'...
Aubergines are in the Solanaceae or Nightshade family of plants, together with potatoes, tomatoes and capsicums (amont others). According to Jonathan Roberts in his book, The Origins of Fruit & Vegetables, 'the aubergine (also called eggplant, melongene, Jew's apple, mad apple and brinjal) is the only edible member of the nightshade family that did not originate in the New World,' and 'Aubergines, like potatoes, were heartily mistrusted by northern Europeans until the 17th century.' Apparently 'the first record of their cultivation comes from China in the 5th century BC.' Although Roberts says [they were] 'probably gardened in India before then.' He says that none of the Greek or Roman gardening writers mentioned aubergines in their writings and nor were they depicted in Classical Mediterranean works of art. Further research tells me that Moorish invaders most likely introduced aubergines to Spain. Food history is interesting, no?
Home-grown aubergines and garlic, with basil-infused oil...
So now, what to do with two plump specimens? I could have made Parmigiana or Moussaka or Baba Ganouj, but I wanted something fresh, fast and tasty. So I drizzled the aubergine slices with basil-infused extra virgin olive oil, then baked them with slices of our home-grown garlic and finished them off with sweet caramelised balsamic vinegar. And then we ate them for lunch! The verdict? Simply delicious!
My simple, no-fuss recipe
BAKED AUBERGINE WITH BALSAMIC, BASIL AND GARLIC
2 medium-sized, plump aubergines
2 tablespoons basil-infused extra virgin olive oil
flaked sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon caramelised balsamic vinegar+
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Wash the aubergines, peel back the green caps and cut them off with the stem. Now cut the aubergines lengthways into 1.5cm thick slices. Place the slices onto a lined baking tray and brush both sides liberally with the basil-infused olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once during cooking time. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the caramelised balsamic vinegar while still warm (and a little extra oil if needed). Use in stacks, enjoy topped with fetta, home-made ricotta or cottage cheese, or serve as part of an antipasto platter with roasted tomatoes and grilled sweet banana chillies. Serves 2.
+ I used La Barre caramelised balsamic vinegar for this recipe. A good quality plain balsamic will also do nicely.
Bake until golden brown...
Baked marinated aubergine, versatile and delicious...
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