As part of a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share in the bio-dynamic bounty of Roxbury Farm [www.roxburyfarm.com/] in historic Kinderhook (Columbia County), New York, we were given the option of choosing either Italian eggplant or oblong Asian eggplant. One of my favorite meals is traditional Italian eggplant parmigiana, so my choice was the more familiar inky purple-black, globe-shaped Italian eggplant. But in the summer heat, rather than facing the demands of preparing eggplant parmigiana, I decided to prepare a lighter meal, which required heating up the oven but would not require frying slices of eggplant in hot oil, although the eggplant would be browned in a minimal amount of Napa Valley Naturals organic olive oil [www.napavalleytrading.com], extra virgin and organic, first cold pressing, olive oil “from California’s Sacramento Valley and Argentina’s Cordoba Valley.” [I had purchased the olive oil on sale at the local food co-op for $9.99. The 25.4 ounce bottle, which is regularly priced at $15.99 at the co-op, was a nice bargain at the sale price.] It would also provide a wonderful way to utilize the beautiful juliette cherry tomatoes, a juicy beefsteak tomato and fresh parsley, also included in the the weekly CSA share, as well as the Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com/] fresh goat cheese (priced at a reasonable $7.25 for 10.5 ounces at my local food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Coop [www.hwfc.com] in Albany, N.Y.), I had in the fridge.
The Joy of Cooking [http://catalog.simonandschuster.com/] by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (New York, NY: Scribner, 1997), a handy and reliable resource for the kitchen, includes an excellent general discussion on preparing eggplant and notes that, influenced by the cuisines of southern Italy and France, “we acquired the habit of sprinkling the slices [of eggplant] with salt before cooking, to draw out excess moisture and bitter juices from the flesh.” The appeal of eggplant as a “satisfying substitute for meat” is succinctly explained: “The soft, sweet flesh holds its shape when carefully cooked and is compatible with all sorts of sauces and seasonings” (pg. 371).
An ever-expanding portion of my backyard garden was planted up with garlic, that easy-to-grow “flavoring agent for virtually all cuisines,” which has “been associated with mythology and magic, along with a host of different superstitions” (page 144, Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008, www.nationalgeographic.com/books). This recipe also provides a way to use some of the fresh garlic, which I had pulled up from my backyard garden in July. Although not fully seasoned and dried, fresh garlic is especially flavorful.
In addition, I decided to serve the eggplant dish atop organic Lone Pine long grain brown rice on sale for $1.49 per pound (usually $1.89) at my local food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Coop [www.hwfc.com] in Albany, N.Y.
Baked Eggplant With Juliette Tomatoes and Goat Cheese:
2 medium sized eggplants
Pint of juliette cherry tomatoes
1 large beefsteak tomato
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
4 ounces Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com/] fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Slice the eggplants into 1/4 inch thick round slices and place in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle very lightly with sea salt and let stand approximately 15-20 minutes. Pat slices dry with paper towel. Dividing the slices into two batches, heat 1/4 cup in a large skillet over medium heat and add one batch of the eggplant slices to the sillet in a single layer and cook for about 4 minutes. Flip and cook 3-4 minutes more. Transfer cooked slices to a plate lined with paper-towel and repeat with the remaining slices.
Let skillet cool for a few minutes, and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and return to a low-medium heat. Peel a garlic bulb and mince the cloves and add to the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes and add halved juliette tomatoes and a large beefsteak tomato, which has been cut up into small pieces. Cook, stirring the tomatoes until they start to form a sauce (15-20 minutes).
In a shallow and oiled baking dish, arrange cooked slices of eggplant. Sprinkle with fresh goat cheese and ground black pepper to taste. Spoon the cooked tomatoes over the eggplant and goat cheese. Cover and bake (at 375 degrees) until the eggplant slices are tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle the tops with 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves. Bake for 5 minutes more.
Long Grain Brown Rice:
1 cup of organic Lone Pine long grain brown rice
2 to 2½ cups of water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
(Four generous servings)
Prepare long grain brown rice by bringing 2 to 2½ cups of water with two tablespoons of olive oil to boil. Rinse 1 cup of Lone Pine organic long grain brown rice in cold water and drain and add to boiling water. Turn down to very low heat and cook until all the water is absorbed, 35 minutes or so. Do not lift cover before the end of cooking. Let stand for 5 additional minutes to ensure absorption of liquid.
Serve the baked eggplant with juliette tomatoes and goat cheese atop the long grain brown rice and enjoy.
(FW Barrie, 6/27/11)