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Eggplant has more than a baffling name. June 17, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in guests, vegetarian.
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I feel like there should be a buffer between this post and the last one, preferably something actually written by Alicia or me, but we work with what we’ve got. Today, that happens to be a simple eggplant roasting technique, once again courtesy of Kip. On Thursday I’ll put up his amusing Turkish-food screed, but I thought this should come first — eggplant is, after all, kind of a Turkish staple. (Do I even know what I’m talking about? Survey says: no.)

The good news is that I did a major grocery shop yesterday, and I plan to start cooking tonight. I’m thinking ribeye steak in a lime-and-cilantro marinade, with honey-and-lemon butternut squash (or perhaps butternut squash soup? butternut squash risotto? the jury is still out) and rosemary-roasted red potatoes. If that actually happens, rest assured that you’ll hear about it tomorrow. Now, on with the show:

For years I’ve had trouble with the standard method of roasting eggplant for baba ghanouj or — well, anything that needs a roasted eggplant. The usual recommendation is to cook it in a hot oven until the skin is black and crisp, and then remove the skin. The problems here are that by then your eggplant is flat as a pancake, which is probably not the ingredient volume you wanted out of your relatively expensive vegetable; and, when you peel off the skin, most of the best-tasting flesh comes with it and has to be scraped off with a spoon, a tedious task because the skin is very easy to tear.

Friends, there is another way!

Take a nice big fresh eggplant and trim the leaves back — don’t top it, just get the biggest leaves out of the way. Then roast the eggplant over the flame of a stove burner, JUST LIKE A BELL PEPPER. Turn the eggplant frequently and make sure that the flame hits all the skin; I find that this takes about 10 minutes, but that will vary according to your eggplant and your gas flame. The whole skin will blacken, but it’s done when it starts to crack in several places.

Put the eggplant on a cutting board and let it cool undisturbed for another 10 minutes, while it cooks all the way to the center. Then pull the skin off in flakes and strips — the skin will have pulled away and left the flesh in one gorgeously rust-streaked piece. When you’ve removed all the skin, top the eggplant and slice or dice it according to your recipe. You’ll find that the flesh is much firmer than the flesh of any oven-roasted eggplant, there’s a lot more of it, and because the skin actually did burn, the profound smoky flavor is unrivaled. I don’t think I’ll ever roast an eggplant in an oven again.

(c) June 2008 /KC

Doesn’t that sound good? I may have to reconsider tonight’s menu — eggplant is sensationally cheap and gorgeous right now, and a mid-week trip to the store wouldn’t be that much of a hardship. Enjoy!

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