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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Elegance and Versatility; Eggplant

Look Up! I have a new blog address and my very own dot.com! I’ve actually had the dot.com for a while except it was hooked up to Wordpress which for the life of me I just couldn’t get the hang of, nor did I have the time or desire to learn. I just transferred my hosted site over to blogger and that is that, for now anyway:)

As you can imagine, there has been a lot going on in the garden the past month. We’ve had more butterfly visits,

And, the resident frog has set up camp underneath Marion’s Avocado plant, which happens to be growing quite nicely in front of the shed.

Yesterday he or she startled me. I was wiping down the outside table and just happen to look down when I saw Mr. Frog nestled in between the crevices of the garage and the driveway. How in the world he or she gets in there is beyond me but, I bet it’s cool and with all the little gnats flying around in the evening, I wouldn’t be surprised if it just snaps out its tongue for dinner. Now, that’s a picture I would LOVE to catch, lol…

The Sunflowers along the fence have finally decided to open. I have mixed feelings about this recent development. The blooming of the Sunflowers in my garden is bittersweet,

To me they are the harbinger of Summer’s end forecasting the shuttering approach of Autumn.

However, I can not deny the brilliance of Autumn’s recognition when the Mexican Sunflowers bloom:)

Whoops, it seems I’m getting a bit side tracked. I just looked at the title of this post and it included the word Eggplant, lol…Fall is the perfect time for the arrival of eggplant at the farm stands and in some of the local supermarkets. Many of the supermarkets in our area are setting up special displays for local produce this year. Finally!

That’s the Eggplant over to the far left. If you look real close, you might be able to see the brussels sprouts growing along the back up close to the house. It seems, I’m not very good at planning vegetable gardens anymore. The tomato plants were so huge, they blocked out those poor brussels sprouts for what seems like forever. After I snipped off most of the leaves and suckers from the tomato plants, I was delighted to see them. I hope they make it:)

In all my years of gardening, I don’t think I have ever had a more beautiful bounty of Eggplant! This year, each and everyone was near perfection. I’m rather surprised because eggplant is a warm weather crop and it doesn’t usually do so well when the temperatures drop in the evenings. Off hand, I must attribute it to two things, the bees and the limestone.

Eggplant flowers are usually pollinated by the wind. If they are too crowded or the weather is damp during flowering, it is difficult for them to get pollinated unless of course there are lots of buzzing pollinators around. I’m sure you can’t see it, but underneath the eggplants, there is also a small lavender bush. Between both, the bees had a blast in this section of the yard. Mind you, I may have been complaining about the lack of bees during the onset of Summer, I take it back!!! The garden was swarming with them and not one of us got stung!

I’m quite pleased with the limestone too and must say it was worth the time and investment. It kept the top of the ground cool and dry while keeping the underground warm and moist enough for the plants. I rarely watered the vegetable garden this Summer. Not only because we had more rain than usual but because the limestone must have held in the moisture.

As you can imagine, there has been a lot of eggplant cooking going on around here the last couple of weeks. Most of the time it includes tomatoes too.

Not only are eggplant and tomatoes companion plants in the garden, they love each other in the roasting pan too! Today, I thought I would share my very best favorite way to make eggplant. Okay, I adore eggplant and like it lots of ways but the following way is simple, delicious and oh so versatile!

There are only three must have ingredients for preparing eggplant my way:) Garlic, Olive Oil and of course, eggplant. You can do as many as you like this way but, if it is a new method for you, I’d start with just one eggplant or as some call it, Aubergine:)

Step One-Wash the eggplant and trim off that prickly end with a sharp knife. I don’t usually slice the end off. You can do that later if you so desire. I don’t peel the eggplant at this point either. If using fresh, garden picked eggplant, you really don’t have to peel it at all. As a matter of fact, the skin of the eggplant contains the flavonoid nasunin which is a powerful antioxidant. When you get a chance, you should read about the Amazing Benefits of Eggplant for Skin, Hair and Health! The Health Benefits may surprise you! (Eggplant has no cholesterol. As a matter of fact, recent studies have shown it may even lower cholesterol. I mention this for two reasons, one because September just happens to be Cholesterol Education Month and two you will find out about in a future post:)

Step Two- Prepare the garlic and olive oil by slicing the garlic thin and soaking it in a small bowl of Olive Oil. Now, don’t get all crazy about how thin the garlic is. Basically, you just want to be able to squeeze it down the slits you will be making in the eggplant. I like to put the garlic in the olive oil while I’m slicing so the oil picks up a tinge of the garlic flavor and also keeps the garlic moist enough while roasting inside the eggplant. It does make it more difficult to handle but, I think it’s worth it:)

Step Three- Prepare the Eggplant. With a small knife, carefully make small slits in the entire eggplant just large enough to insert the sliced garlic. Rocking the knife back and forth makes it easier to insert the garlic. Some of you may be familiar with seasoning roasts the same way. Off hand, I can’t think of the culinary term for it, if there is one. I started preparing eggplant this way long before I even read my first cookbook:) When I was around 8 or 9, I use to do most of the family cooking. Not knowing what to do with most of the ingredients I was tasked with preparing, I just winged it! Only later in life did I learn that most of my methods were indeed “culinary.” To me, it just seemed natural:) When you’re done, it should look something like this.

The History of Eggplants begins in India and Eastern Asia. It may seem rather strange that here in the US we refer to them as Egg Plant but there seems to be a pretty valid reason.

…The first eggplants to reach Europe during the Middle Ages were actually a rare white species, with oval fruits that closely resembled a hen’s egg…

Although the Spanish actually introduced the Eggplant to the Americas, in particular, to Brazil as early as 1650, Eggplant were still unknown to the United States for another 150 years. Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States in 1806 from a friend in France and held them in high regard. In fact, even today, a prickly, white Eggplant is still grown in Jefferson's preserved Virginia Garden at Monticello. Despite the fact that Jefferson, who was not only a founding father of the United States, but was also a legendary horticulturist who championed the Eggplant, the vegetable was primarily grown in the United States as an ornamental plant…(source)

Eggplant season is at its peak from August through October here in the states. I bet you’re wondering if there is such a thing as Eggplant Month, lol…Actually, I haven’t heard of one, yet! There is however a day of celebration put aside for Eggplant. That’s right folks, September 25th is National Eggplant Day!!! And, we mustn’t forget the Loomis California Eggplant Festival October 4 this year.

I'm all for dedicating a day to eggplant. I don’t think enough people really appreciate it for all its goodness. I have a feeling I know why too; bitterness. Here are some tips from the folks at The Kitchn.

One way of combating the bitterness of eggplant is by salting it. Usually, I would agree for other methods such as preparing it for eggplant parmesan. However, when it comes to roasting, I don't recall ever having a problem with bitterness.

Step Four- Preheat the oven to 400° Take the remaining oil from the garlic mixture and rub it all over the eggplant. If you need more oil, just add a bit more. Now, place the garlic stuffed eggplant in a shallow non aluminum roasting pan. (aluminum discolors it:) I usually use my Savoy roaster if I’m including other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and onions but, if I’m roasting the eggplant alone, I use my cast iron skillet. Either will do. Roasting time varies according to the size of the eggplant but 40 minutes or so should do it. The eggplant should be nicely charred and shriveled. I know, it doesn’t sound appetizing but me oh my, it sure tastes good as is:)

Note:I’ve tried this on the barbecue with much success too. The first time I tried it I wrapped the eggplant in foil, a definite no no…Slowly roasted on the grill will work if you remember to keep turning it. I happen to like the skin but if you don’t, it is pretty easy to peel off once the eggplant is cool enough to handle.

I suppose you are now wondering what to do with your silky preparation? As for me, I like eggplant cooked this way warm or chilled. I actually prefer it chilled which works out great if you like Baba Gannoujh which means "spoiled old papa" in Lebanese:) Baba Gannoujh is eggplant purée flavored much like hummus with tahini, lemon, and garlic. I happen to LOVE it! You can also use your garlicky roasted eggplant as a dip for vegetables or as a sandwich filling. (btw, did you know like tomatoes, eggplant is actually a fruit:) Here’s a recipe for Baba ghanouj and Taratour Sauce from Anna Thomas’ The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two

Doesn't this sound interesting?

As for me, I’ll be having roasted eggplant, tomatoes and onions over pasta tonight. Marion will be having just the roasted tomatoes and onions as she does not like, in any way shape or form, garlic. And, since eggplant is in the nightshade family like tomatoes and peppers, she’ll be skipping the eggplant tonight so she is spared too much arthritis pain. Nightshades wreak havoc on arthritis!

Thank you so much for sharing your time with me today. I hope you enjoyed this post. Thank you to Inger from The Art of Natural Living for asking about the garlic slivers in the eggplant. I don’t think I would have shared this method if not for Inger asking. You must check out her Plum Drunken Fool, it’s a dessert sillies:) I actually had another post planned for today but I’m still researching some facts and it’s a bit more on a serious note. (tune in Sunday:)

I’m trying my darnedest to catch up with all of you and your delicious posts but it seems I just plum keep running out of time. I even stayed up way past my bed time last night in an effort to have this post done earlier but, alas…I will be visiting each and every one of you before Sunday, I promise:) Louise

Resources
1. Roasted Eggplant, Feta and Walnut Salad Chef Amie Edelstein
2. Eggplant Abruzzo Style
3. Chinese Steamed Eggplant with Shrimp Stir-Fry
4. Eggplant Escabeche
5. Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Dip
6. Roasted Eggplant Sandwich

30 comments:

  1. I can't believe you moved from Wordpress to Blogger!! Most people do it the other way, silly! Did you see my recipe for an eggplant and mint salad? I liked it and I don't even like eggplant.

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  2. I stand in envious admiration of your tomato bounty! I'm not that big a fan of eggplant, but I'll bet yours with the garlic is pretty darn good!

    And, yes, fall will soon arrive, but I've been delighted with the temperatures this week (and even the rain last night - overnight)!

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  3. Congrats on the domain name! I know most people swear by Wordpress, and it certainly has loads of capabilities. But Blogger works pretty well, and they handle all of the backend stuff, so I don't have to think about it. Anyway, lovely stuff from your garden. And I've never had a problem with eggplant bitterness when roasting either.

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  4. Louise , I'm really itching to photograph your garden ! That butterfly sure looks gorgeous *sigh* I love eggplant and back home in the Philippines my mother usually cook it together with tomato , onion and garlic , sort of like that one you have there but all mix in together :D

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  5. Dearest Louise,
    First it is so nice to see your posts agin, miss you while you were away. Second, Congratulations on your dot.com! I use Blogger and they have been not too bad. Sometimes I have had a few problems, but nothing I can't fix. Now third, I love your garden, all the tomatoes, eggplants, and the flowers are just so beautiful! I just love Sunflowers, they are so tall and the colors are amazing together. Great recipe of your eggplant with the scored garlic and oil. Love the idea that you have added the tomatoes and have them on pasta. I am getting hungry just thinking about how delicious it must be. As you know from my blog posts that I love eggplants, no matter how you cook them. I always leave the skin on, as you said it is full of antioxidants. You can never go wrong with garlic and oil! Thanks for sharing all of your knowledge and your recipes. Have a blessed day!
    Dottie :)

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  6. YAY you're a dot.commer :D Congrats my friend!
    Domain work is so tricky, I am beyond sick of it, but I am glad it has all worked out for you!
    Never thought of eggplant as elegant, but your recipe and you most certainly are so I trust you :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  7. Hi Louise! Love the sight of your sunflowers and your veggies too! Things are in the same state here, as we get working on canning and freezing all the veggies that are piling into the house right now. I am also surprised at some of the things that have done better than expected in this cool summer we've had, but grateful for whatever we get!

    Cheers - donalyn@ http://thecreeksidecook.com

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  8. What wonderful tomatoes and eggplant! We have never been able to see eggplant survive in our garden.:-( We love it!

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  9. Hi Louise,
    Your eggplant is a beauty! And your bountiful tomatoes! You have such a lovely garden, and lots of beautiful plants growing and thriving. My eggplant is flowering at the moment, but this morning, saw two flowers have fallen off! Keeping my fingers crossed that the rest of the flowers will give me at least a few fruits. Eggplants are delicious in fish curries.
    I love eggplant and I love garlic, your way of roasting the eggplant sounds so delicious. I can imagine the aroma that fills your kitchen. Will try your method of roasting.
    Beautiful sunflowers!
    Say hi to Marion and hope her arthritis are not bothering her too much.
    And be sure to share us the photos of your brussels sprouts when they start to "fruit"!! :)

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  10. Cute frog! I love the photo of the sunflowers. I like the idea of scoring the eggplant and stuffing it with garlic.

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  11. Hi Louise , congrats on your dot com domain . blogger can be a pain in the butt sometimes but from some blogging friends , lots of them is moving from Wordpress to Blogger .
    What a very lovely garden you have and oh those eggplants is to die for . Like you , love eggplants any way you fix them . Lucky me , kids love them also , heck they love all veggies . Love the frog , that's his space . I know you enjoy the butterflies dotting from flower to flower , they look like a poem in flight . Love the sunflowers they bow their hears in the wind so says baby boy . Thanks for the eggplant recipes , they will make a much added dish . I am pinning ... thanks so much for sharing ;-D

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  12. Dear Louise I love eggsplants are amazing!
    And I love the eggplant puree recipe!
    xo

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  13. It's great to see you back, Louise! And congrats with your dot.com! Mine is a dot.com also, but I have to yet to go the whole mile to finish it. Your flowers are gorgeous, and I love that sunflowers/fence shot. The eggplant recipe sounds delicious and I'd love to try it, if only there were other eggplant lovers here. Have a good day!

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  14. It looks like you have a lot of tomatoes in your garden. We weren't so lucky, are tomato plants did not do well at all. I haven't eaten a lot of eggplant in my life, but roasting sounds like it would be a good way to prepare it. I love the pictures of your flowers!

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  15. Welcome back! Love your gotgeous garden. I did not know there is an eggplant festival before.

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  16. Congrats on your new domain, Louise! I changed mine too last year & had so much hiccups. Sigh! That aside, I'm a fan of eggplants. We like to cook with chilli over in Singapore. Have you tried the spicy version?

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  17. Hi Louise, it's so wonderful to have you back, and thank you for sharing such amazing posts, and beautiful photos with us of your vacation, and your sweet grandchildren! Also in your latest post, about the most favorite vegetable; the Eggplant! I love the 2 yummy recipes that you included...the Baba Ganoush...or Ganouj is a very popular spread in Israel...or I should say, the Middle East. I love Middle Easter foods, including Moroccan, as well!

    Your tomato vines are 'to die for' gorgeous, and grilling them with the eggplant is one of my favorite ways to eat them...yumm! Your photos of your garden flowers, and the beautiful butterfly is so amazing...in fact; I, personally feel 'so blessed' to be able to have you share so many interesting, and heartwarming stories, and photos...also interesting food history! I thank you for that, dear friend! Hugs,

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  18. Congrats on your own .com address, Louise. I tried that for a while but ended up with blogspot. Your tomatoes look great- our garden was a bit of a fail. We were told it's too hot, very extreme heat.
    The sunflowers are lovely.

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  19. Your garden looks incredibly beautiful, Louise!! I have not seen one Monarch butterfly this summer…usually I have many! I did have many others, but no Monarchs!
    I am such an eggplant fan, but I have never tried roasting them…I will be giving that a try very soon! Have a great weekend!

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  20. Hooray! Congrats on the "move."

    I love it all. Eggplant is one of my favorites, but who can resist garden-fresh tomatoes? Or tall sunflowers, waiting for the right moment to share their bountiful seeds?

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  21. Dear Louise, Your garden of flowers and veggies looks wonderful!! You are a good gardener. I don't seem to have much luck.
    The frog has certainly found a nice place to set up home.
    The eggplant looks great. I would love to put that on some good bread.
    have a good weekend Louise and relax and enjoy. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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  22. Oh wow Louise.. You r making me envious! I wish i hv a garden like yours. It's like you hv a mini vegetation farm. You hv very green fingers. :) love your 'crops'!

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  23. congratulations on getting your own domain. Infact these days i'm considering getting one too for my blog..not sure abt it yet.
    I'm glad that you mentioned about the goodness of eating eggplants cos i love eggplants. I eat lots of them here, chinese stir fries and yes, i love baba ghanoush too! it is a great dip! we have egg plants here all year round and here they are more known as brinjal . Have a happy weekend!

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  24. Love your pictures. You have quite a bounty in your garden - you are so lucky you have a green thumb. Garden produce tastes soo good:)

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  25. I am so in love with your garden. You have very green fingers and it is so beautiful!

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  26. Congratulations on your .com address. I'm a little wary of you being with blogger because I have trouble leaving comments on it. Your garden certainly has been thriving during the summer months with a bountiful crop. I love sunflowers…they always make me smile. I'll really smile if I see that this comment goes through.

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  27. Oh thanks for the shout out Louise! And of course for the eggplant recipe! That is what I do with a leg of lamb, but I never would have thought of it for eggplant. Timing is perfect since one of my CSAs just gave us a heads up that there will be an eggplant on Tuesday!

    Your pictures are beautiful. Sunflowers always make me think of the kids starting kindergarten. Our school district always sent sunflower seeds, so you could tell the kids that when the sunflowers bloomed it would be time to start school. Always been meaning to try them again...

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  28. Buttercup praline pie! And I am so very intrigued by your eggplant =)

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  29. Hi Louise, Lovely garden! And I like the pictures ... blooming of the Sunflowers! Cheers!

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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