Tag Archives: eggplant

a perfect balance: summer quinoa salad – chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, & toasted almond

summer quinoa salad with chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, and toasted almonds

Clearly I’m jumping the gun here a bit on “Summer,” but I’ve got a racer-back tan-line seared between my shoulders and the imprint of (my favorite) teeny-tiny wedge sandals emblazoned on the tops of my bare feet, so I can’t be that far off in my seasonal labeling, right?

chinese eggplant from the farmers market

They keep telling me that “it’s never like this;” they being those more seasoned San Franciscans than I, and this being the exceptionally perfect seventy-five-and-no-cloud-in-the-sky weather we’ve been having straight up on the reg.  I know I keep saying it, but there’s been some killer days here; the kind that make me actually excited for the in-betweens when the fog rolls in, and for that perfect time of evening when the eerie echo of the foghorn picks up at dusk.

fresh summer corn right off the cob

We had barely even fifteen minutes indoors this past weekend, with Saturday enjoyed posted up at picnic tables and grilling oysters with friends at Tomales Bay, and Sunday spent having our first taste of Bay to Breakers, an annual road race that seems to be much less about the race and much more about who can wear the most ridiculous costume.  (And…ahem…about lots of random naked people.  Being naked in public is a big thing here, folks.)

chinese eggplant ready to roast

Though sweet corn and eggplant are two things I associate more with July and August, I found both at the farmer’s market last week, and therefore – Summer, shes’a close.

taking the bite out of some red onion

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a silly aversion: roasted eggplant with minted yogurt sauce

I’ve got to be honest here for just a minute.

I used to hate cooking eggplant.  No — that doesn’t doesn’t quite encompass my feelings properly — I desperately loathed cooking eggplant.  For a gal that unfailingly chooses eggplant parm over the feathered variety every time, scoops up gobs of baba ganoush on pita like it’s her last ration on planet Earth, and gobbles an embarrassing amount of marinated slices off a shared antipasti plate – this just didn’t make sense.  At the markets in the late Augusts of Summers gone by, I would quickly two-step right past the eggplant stand and do-si-do instead over to the stacked pyramids of sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes. Each time, James would pick up a giant purple orb, look over with hopefully shrugged shoulders, and say, “Hey – you think we should do eggplant tonight? I LOVE eggplant!”  My answer never varied.

“Ehsshhh….I don’t know. Let’s just get some asparagus or something instead. Or these zucchini look good I think. Eggplant is annoying to cook.”

I was a master eggplant deflector; a few times I think I even resorted to fibbing that I really didn’t care for it all that much. I’d say anything to avoid lugging those giant suckers home and spend the evening dealing with all of their insecurities after a long day at the office.

So after I slice it up….should I salt it first? And then drain it? This recipe doesn’t call for salting or draining but this one does! But won’t it be bitter? Should I pick a bigger one or a smaller one? And there are so many kinds! Japanese, Chinese, Italian….   These are the kinds of things that were keeping me up at night. For as much as I love eggplant, we have all suffered through a soggy, bitter, oil-laden slice; when the sauce sheets off, pools on your plate, and leaves you with a wobbly mushy mess, choking it down is about as appealing as cranking your pinkie toe back on that dang corner of the bed frame that sticks out just a wee bit too far.  Not. Fun.

After a few years of constantly passing by the glossy aubergines and suffering eggplant-anxiety whenever my patient but persistent fiance would ask me if I, in fact, was aware of just how much he loved eating eggplant – I finally decided to face my nemesis.  To say confronting my fears changed my life would admittedly be a bit dramatic – but seriously! What had been wrong with me?! Especially now that we are in the throes of its peak season, eggplant is firmly entrenched into our top ten weeknight side dishes, in one iteration or another.

This is my current late summer standout: Fat slices of eggplant are roasted simply with some good olive oil and a healthy dusting of sea salt and fresh pepper. While they roast, a yogurt sauce is whipped up with plenty of fresh mint, spicy sharp garlic, and bright-tart lime juice. The fresh sauce gives a creamy cool contrast to the plush warm eggplant, and since the sauce is made with yogurt -you’ve added some great protein without much fat.  Have it as a side dish with grilled fish or alongside a green salad, and be prepared to levitate straight off your chair – this is so simple, but so, so, good.

Roasted Eggplant with Minted Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4, as a side dish

I tend to choose eggplants that are on the medium to small side; I find them to be less bitter and easier to manage while cooking. When choosing one, make sure the skin is firm and shiny, that it feels relatively heavy for its size, and that the leaves are not wilted (wilted leave = old eggplant = blech).

I like to roast veggies at a high temperature (usually 400-425F) – it helps to brown them before they become overcooked, and a golden color means a delicious flavor. Roasting the eggplant on racks helps the heat circulate around them evenly and keeps them from absorbing any liquid or oil that would normally collect on the bottom of the baking sheet.
roasted eggplant
2 medium sized Italian eggplant (or another plump-shaped medium variety)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

yogurt sauce
1 six ounce container Greek yogurt (I like Fage 2%*)
small handful fresh mint (about ¼ cup), minced
1 small clove garlic (or ½ large clove), minced
juice of one lime
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with foil, and place a large wire cooling rack on top of the foil.

Slice the eggplant into ‘planks’ that are of equal thickness, about ½” each. Place the slices into a large bowl, and drizzle evenly with the olive oil. Toss to coat each slice evenly, working quickly to ensure that one slice doesn’t absorb more oil than another (this will help avoid soggy spots). Season generously with sea salt and pepper, and space the slices out evenly on the racks.

Roast the eggplant for 15-20 minutes, turning once halfway through, until the slices are browned evenly and tender throughout when pricked with a fork. While the eggplant roasts, make the yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, minced garlic, and minced mint with a fork. Gently stir in the lime juice, season to taste with salt, and set to the side to let the flavors marry.

When the eggplant is tender and browned, remove it from the oven and top it with a generous dollop of the yogurt sauce. The eggplant is delicious straight-away, hot from the oven, but is also great room temperature (just remember to keep the sauce refrigerated if you do not plan on eating it right away). Perfection!

*I like the extra creaminess in the 2% over the 0% fat yogurt here, however you can swap in the 0% and it will still be delish.

turkey sausage ragu with eggplant and kale

Sometimes I have a wee bit of an irrational tendency to purchase certain, um, necessary items on a whim with no idea whatsoever what I’ll do with them.

I’m not talking about pairs of ridiculously impractical but ohmigahdgorge heels, or teeny tiny clutches that I can barely fit my lip gloss in (though I’ll fully admit my restraint is not exactly 100% in that arena either).  I’m talking about food items; random ingredients and gadgets that I have no current use or need for – just yet, that is.

In the last month I have purchased a pouch of aleppo pepper, a tin of fennel pollen, a bag of cinnamon chips, pink Himalayan sea salt crystals, a strawberry huller, a two-pound package of white miso paste, and a rainbowed assortment of organic frosting dye colors (yeah…for all of those colored and frosted cakes I plan on making…!?).  Not exactly the ‘essentials,’ if you will.

{wait! there’s more…}