Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No Croutons Required: Cilantro Infused Eggplant

Eggplant is much like any one of my unintelligible grammar school drawings that I still, to this day, remember my mother faithfully posting on the refrigerator - there has to be deep love in one's heart for it to be declared beautiful. Even I, with a true, lifelong, deep and abiding love for eggplant, have to admit that it's not the most aesthetic of vegetables - just as I sincerely hope that my mother sensed, somewhere deep in her brain, that my vague sketches of ponies were not even remotely Picasso-esque.

But I still do adore eggplant. My fondness for eggplant began somewhere around the impressionable age of 4 or 5, when, on occasion, my mother would head off to an evening meeting or whatnot and leave my father and I to our own defenses. At the time my mother did all of the household's cooking, yet also firmly believed that my father was capable of "figuring out something" for supper if the need arose. Invariably, the same pattern would occur: my father would set me on the counter to 'supervise,' produce several enormous, purple globes from the fridge, and fry eggplant for us. French fries or any other fried indulgence still pales in comparison to my recollections of those crispy, tender, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, big, circular rounds of eggplant.

So while eggplants are indisputably most beautiful in their sensuously purple uncooked state, I still see the cooked, mushy-gray version with the adoring eyes of that child sitting on the counter, cooking eggplants with Dad so many years ago.

Beauty comes in many forms, does it not?

I'm sending this post to one of my very favorite food blog events: No Croutons Required! Created by Holler of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, this fabulous monthly event is an endless source of vegetarian soup and salad inspiration. Since this month's theme is favorite herbs, I just had to submit a recipe that is a double favorite - it's filled with cilantro, my current favorite herb (yes, I confess, my herb allegiances change regularly, just as my favorite books and cookbooks do as well...), and it's our Absolute Favorite Eggplant Recipe Of All Time. I first assembled the recipe years ago, back when I was working some boring job by day and catering by night, and I liked the recipe so much that I actually had the presence of mind to recreate it, carefully noting the components. Over the years it lapsed into the back of a notebook, until I fixed it for Zach on a whim a few months ago, and since then it has become a regular fixture in our house... One might even call it our "house" eggplant (can one have a "house eggplant?").

Cilantro and Spice Infused Sauteed Eggplant Salad

½ cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 large eggplants, diced
½ cup honey
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp curry powder
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and black pepper to taste
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped

~ Soak the eggplant in salted water for 5-10 minutes, then drain and dry.
~ Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
~ Add the onion and sauté over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
~ Add the eggplant and cook until lightly browned (4-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
~ Reduce the heat to low, and add the honey, wine vinegar, cumin, curry, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Cover and continue to cook until eggplant is tender yet still moist - approx. 1/2 hour.
~ Remove the dish from the heat, add the cilantro and combine, and add any additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, perhaps with some pita to help scoop up the flavorful sauce...


Ann said...

I love eggplant too... and I always feel a little sad when I have to cut it up, because it's so pretty whole and in its skin. :-)

Lisa said...

Thanks for this entry! This would be a good use of the cilantro I have growing in abundance in my backyard.

VeggieGirl said...

Haha, loved the childhood story :0) Although it's not my favorite vegetable, I DO fancy eggplant every now and then; and your recipe sounds FABULOUS!!

Bellini Valli said...

What wonderful memories of cooking with your dad:D

Ricki said...

What a great story, and an appealing recipe! I also love eggplant (and the idea of a "house" eggplant is so cute!). :)

african vanielje said...

I absolutely love aubergine as well. Yes, even in it's grey, brown mushy state. I can't remember ever having it with coriander, but I must have. It's two of my favourite flavours. I'll just have to try your recipe out to refresh my memory! What a chore!

Cookiemouse said...

Eggplant is such a funny name! Nice recipe too.

Astra Libris said...

Ann, it's so true! I feel the same way! Raw whole eggplant is one of the most beautiful veggies, I think...

Lisa, many thanks! Your cilantro abundance sounds heavenly!

VeggieGirl, thank you so much!

Valli, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the memories story!

Ricki, I'm so glad to hear a vote for keeping the concept of "house eggplant!" :-) Three cheers for eggplant lovers!

African Vanielje, I'm so delighted that you fancy trying the recipe! I hope you enjoy!

CookieMouse, thank you! Eggplant is such a funny, odd name for such a beautiful raw vegetable... :-) Aubergine sounds so much more elegant.

Neen said...

That's a great background story about your Dad and fried eggplant. I'd been waiting for endless months for eggplant to be in season, after having a painful encounter with an out-of-season eggplant last winter (cough, cardboard, cough). I was so disappointed when I made an eggplant soup and couldn't taste the eggplant! I'm hoping that roasting it,grilling it, or sauteeing it as you do here will have a better outcome.