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Posts Tagged ‘eggplant’

100_1889Last August, I posted about ratatouille. Here it is again. Why won’t I shut up about ratatouille? First, because I want to demonstrate that – slowly and unsurely – I am becoming a better photographer. Second, because I tried a new way of cooking ratatouille that I actually like way better.

“There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille.” Some version of this sentence appears on the Wikipedia page of just about every dish known to man, and it brings up one of my least favorite concepts in food: “Authenticity.”

The idea that a dish is somehow invalid for not conforming to some specific standard drives me crazy, at least when it’s not recognized that it’s just a semantic argument, one about terminology, not value. A ratatouille by any other name…

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Hey!  Food Junta’s Turkish correspondent returns with another soul-fulfilling, horizon-expanding (and edible) recipe from the east/west.   This is Karnıyarık (Kar-nuh-YAR-uhk).

In Turkish, Karnıyarık means “split stomach.” Do you hear the violence inherent this Turkish speciality? Are you prepared to cross all sorts of personal and culinary boundaries in pursuit of this Turkish delicacy? Because things will get intimate between you and eggplants. You’ll skin, fry, eviscerate, and roast this vegetable, but in the end, you’ll both emerge more than penpals searching for that stamp you had somewhere.  You might even become fast friends.  And it tastes good.

Before I came to this Turkish dish, my knowledge of eggplants remained limited to ogling the  shiny, bulbous objects in the vegetable section, eggplant parmigiana pizza, and the rare ratatouille.  My recipes cubed and sliced the poor eggplants, trying to find where they fit in my pre-karnıyarık lexicon.   Yet from that distance, I could only manage to destroy or appropriate the eggplant.  None of my recipes dealt with eggplant as eggplant. Even in so-called eggplant dishes, it was simply bulk, fodder for the tomato sauce, or buried in “real flavors” in a classic example of epicurean tourism, or worse, orientalism.  (Whoa…)  But what a wealth of authentic Turkish experience and untapped flavor I was missing! It just takes a willingness and patience to feel the common…something between you and the eggplant. (more…)

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(This post is part of our ongoing collaboration with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and it also appears on their blog.)

I love eggplant, but if I’m going to be eating it, then give me lavender ones, white ones, striped ones, small truly egg-shaped ones or ones that are long and curvy and look almost like purple peppers. What are these purple pepper looking eggplant, you ask? White eggplant, you ask? Yes, reader. Eggplant does not have to be dark purple and globular and often relatively flavorless. Eggplant can, in fact, be delicious, and worthy of the most simple treatment, showcasing it as the centerpiece of the dish itself, instead of just a vehicle for cheese and tomato sauce (eggplant parm) or covered in soy sauce (every stir fry ever).

I’m talking about none other than Japanese eggplant (also called Chinese eggplant), which unlike the eggplant you may be used to (supermarket, or American, eggplant) comes in a variety of shapes and colors, and which I find both more tender and more flavorful than its lunky brethren. Japanese eggplant seem, to my eyes at least, more delicate and also sleeker, plus, did I mention this already, I really do think they taste better. (more…)

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(This post is part of our ongoing collaboration with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and it also appears on their blog.)

I’m pretty sure most people don’t think of eggplants much outside the realm of the eponymous parm, but they are quite versatile, very easy to handle, and in season right about now. An eggplant is not something you want to just pick up and bite into. Uncooked and unseasoned, they are tough and flavorless, but add some heat and about half a ton of garlic and you’re in business.

This dip comes from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables, and, as it happens, was on the menu in the pilot dining hall for the Yale Sustainable Food Project when I was there.

She calls it eggplant caviar. I call it eggplant dip. But that is why she is Alice Waters, and I am a lowly blogger.

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I am probably much more pleased with myself for this than I deserve to be, but what is a food blog good for if not self-aggrandizement? Nothing as far as I’m concerned.

So here’s the story: I made too much ratatouille. Much too much ratatouille. My dinner guests ate ratatouille. I ate ratatouille. I ate more ratatouille. I got really, really sick of ratatouille.

Then it struck me, like a blow to the head with a basil-wrapped brick (props to Douglas Adams on that one): ratatouille is essentially an especially chunky pasta sauce. A pound of pasta, a little olive oil, a little reserved pasta water, leftover ratatouille, and some salt and I was on my way.

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Ratatouille (or Tian of Vegetables, as it is also known) is the very fancy-sounding name for a very rustic Provencal dish. It is, in essence, a bunch of summer vegetables stewed together in the oven.

Ratatouille is a great dish for entertaining because it can be prepared ahead of time in vast quantities and simply slapped in the oven when your guests arrive or it can even be cooked in advance and served at room temperature. Sitting for a day actually concentrates the flavors and improves the ratatouille, and you can drink wine and hang out at your party instead of sweating in the kitchen while your friends eat all your cheese.

So go make some ratatouille, and stay tuned for a pretty clever plan for some of the leftovers, if I do say so myself, and I do. Recipe after the jump.

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