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The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
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is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 09.06.05
Montreal

GREG DUNCAN

How to deal with an eggplant

More than one reader has asked what to do with eggplant recently. This, after having to throw out a few myself after leaving them for a few days on the counter. They looked pretty in purple but never quite made it to the pan.

The thing is, eggplant seems to have traditionally elicited little fanfare here in North America. That's all changing as our cultural landscape increasingly includes wonderful ways to cook such items.

We have been privy to items such as Moussaka (A Greek dish), Eggplant Parmesan (Italian) and Bharta (Indian) for some time, yet home cooks such as myself have often been left wondering just what to do after growing them. And grow they do up here in the north. We are stymied by a short shelf life it seems.

Here is a short list of eggplant tips and trivia that may help the uninitiated.

  • Sprinkle minced garlic and herbs over eggplant slices before grilling for extra taste.
  • Add eggplant to lasagna to add color, taste, and texture.
  • Blend eggplant to spinach dips or other vegetable dips.
  • Add eggplant to vegetable soups for a heartier texture.
  • Grill eggplant, and add it to your favorite sandwich.

    Thomas Jefferson, who experimented with many varieties of plants in his Virginia garden, is credited with introducing eggplant to North America. In various parts of Europe, people suspected that eating eggplant caused madness, not to mention leprosy, cancer, and bad breath, which is why eggplant was used mostly for decoration in England and the North America nearly up to the 20th century.

    Eggplants are actually fruits, and classified botanically as berries!

    Spices that enhance eggplant flavor include allspice, basil, bay leaves, garlic, chili powder, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley.

    BABA GHANOUSH (EGGPLANT DIP)

    2 large eggplants
    2 level Tbsp Tahini (Sesame spread available in most groceries)
    4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with salt
    3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or more to taste
    3 to 4 Tbsp cold water
    1/4 tsp salt
    Dash of freshly ground black pepper
    1 tsp olive oil
    1-cup tomato, chopped
    1/2-cup onion, diced

    Pierce the eggplant in several places with a toothpick. Set in the oven at medium high heat to cook on all sides until they collapse and release a great deal of steam or grill the eggplant until blackened, collapsed, and cooked through. Dump the eggplant into a basin of cold water; peel while still hot and allow to drain in a colander until cool. Squeeze pulp to remove any bitter juices. Mash the eggplant to a puree.

    In a food processor, mix the Tahini with the garlic, onion, tomato, and lemon juice until smooth. Thin with water if necessary. With the machine running, add the eggplant and the salt, pepper, and olive oil. Spread out in a shallow dish and garnish with pepper, parsley, and tomatoes.

    Serve with fresh pita bread for dipping.

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