'I could not exist for more than a few days without cooking some eggplant,. And yet for many cooks this is one of the most mysterious of vegetables.'
Eggplants are in abundant supply at farmer's markets and greengrocers, hence they have centre stage on my kitchen bench at present. I am particularly taken with the heirloom varieties, such as the Rosa bianca, which I've been buying direct from a grower. Stephanie Alexander reminds us of the versatility of eggplants, both in terms of size (from the tiny Thai eggplant through to the larger ones almost the 'size of a butternut pumpkin') and in the way they can be prepared. Eggplant can be fried, battered, au gratin, grilled, stuffed. stewed, pureed, mashed or baked. In The Cook's Companion, Ms Alexander offers a classic recipe for smoky eggplant puree, preferably cooked over a camp fire, she says. The flavoursome puree is perfect as the base for baba ghanoush.
In Seasonal, Stefano Manfredi writes that Italians like to 'pickle eggplant in long strips, keeping them a little crunchy.' He recommends pairing them with tomatoes, zucchini, capsicum, onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, yoghurt, lamb, haloumi and parmesan, among other diverse ingredients. In his recipe for eggplant baked with tomato, parmesan and oregano, Manfredi cuts the eggplant lengthwise into a fan shape, leaving the top of the stem intact, then brushes it with olive oil and slips slices of tomato in between the sliced 'leaves' of the eggplant. Sprinkle with parmesan and baked for 25 minutes until tender in a 190 degree C oven.
I've been experimenting with a number of eggplant dishes over the last two weeks, including versions of a Middle Eastern classic of sliced, roasted eggplant served with yoghurt, saffron and pomegranate by both Yotam Ottolenghi and Claudia Roden. I will share with you my take on the recipe as soon as I have 'nailed the flavours' and once locally grown pomegranates are more readily available. In the meantime, you might enjoy my eggplant stack or chargrilled eggplant with tomato, basil and garlic.
'Favourite flavours' is a fresh, new segment that will feature regularly on Good Things. It gives me the opportunity to further share with you my love of seasonal produce, but I'd also like this to be your opportunity to tell me about your favourite flavours and what good things you're cooking with. You're also invited to share a recipe if you'd like to do so. So please pop in and visit.
I'm Liz, a.k.a Bizzy Lizzy,
the writer, cook and traveller behind
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.