Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From the Vine to the Table

Submitted by Michelle

Though I get my big box of produce from the CSA every week, I'm still an advocate of the backyard garden, even if your backyard, like mine, is teeny-tiny. Today after school I checked my garden and found this little lovely waiting for me.

(For all you non-veggie eaters, this is an eggplant.)

I quickly plucked it, along with another that was hiding behind some leaves and decided to center my dinner around it. Following the advice of my favorite celebrity chef, Mario Batali, I pulled out a few simple ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry and made a fantastic starter (or main, depending on how much you want to eat.)

I began by slicing my freshly picked eggplant as well as a few cloves of garlic from my CSA box. I also had fresh basil in my CSA box so I cut that into a chiffonade (fancy French word for thinly slicing herbs.)

Next, I fired up the grill and cooked the eggplant. (A grill pan would do the job too, but since I live in the desert of Southern California I don't have much need for one.) I didn't put anything on the eggplant before I grilled it, not even olive oil. After I grilled the eggplant on both sides, I plated it and sprinkled balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, the sliced garlic and basil over it, and ta-dah...this is what I had to feast on.

I added some freshly sliced Parmesan cheese, roasted red peppers and a glass of Cabernet and made myself a meal!

I've always loved eggplant but I especially like this recipe because it is low on calories without being low on taste. Also, you can cook it ahead of time and then serve it at room temperature a few hours later. In fact, giving it time to sit increases the flavors. Something about the heat from the grilled eggplant melding with the garlic and basil really makes for a fantastic outcome after proper resting time.

A few cooking notes for those of you who haven't cooked with eggplant very often:

1. When choosing an eggplant, be sure it is heavy for it's size. The heavier the eggplant, the fewer amount of seeds you'll find in the flesh.

2. Seeds = bitterness. I've read in many a cookbook that one should salt eggplant and let it sit for 30 minutes or so before cooking in order for the water and bitterness to drain out. I never have the need to salt my eggplant since mine rarely have large amounts of seeds and therefore are not bitter. Why add salt prior to cooking if you don't have to?

Lastly, I must give props to 2 people: My cousin Kathy who turned me on to this recipe from The Greens Cookbook and to Deborah Madison, who wrote The Greens Cookbook and turned me on to vegetarian cooking, even though I'm an eater of meat.


Kathleen said...

Michelle, my food soul mate! You have reminded me I should be making this fantastic recipe more often than I do. Thank you for confirming, by the way, that it usually isn't necessary to salt eggplant. (I also like the small Japanese eggplants--those are always low on seeds.) Can't wait to feast with you in a couple weeks.
p.s. Linda and I are about to be Facebook friends...don't you feel left out now? ;)

Stacey said...

Wow, the food you made looks so good it makes this non-veggie eater want to try it! Will you be making it at Linda's the next time you visit??? :-)