How to Cook Eggplant
This was one of those vegetables sorely misunderstood when growing up as a child. Coming from the Asian side of the family, this vegetable always left its mark at the dinner table. Unfortunately it was pushed to the side by the children. The preparation of this nightshade member is vital for kids to accept a food too “different” to them. So from childhood on through adulthood, I maintained my distance from the Eggplant, either because of the way it looked or the way it was prepared. For only about five years now I have found new ways to prepare this undesirable plant.
Throughout the culinary world when a person thinks of a vegetarian and eggplant, in most cases what comes to mind first is the Eggplant Parmesan. There is no doubt this is one of of the best ways to have it—deep fried with a batter, then smothered with marinara, mozzarella, and parmigiana [vegan of course]. Then we have French coming in with the traditional Ratatouille. A stew-like dish consisting of eggplant, squash, and zucchini in a tomato base. Oftentimes, when doing this dish I would use the V-8 trick, making for a quicker preparation time. This dish, while more nutritious, lost some its texture during the cooking. I have looked to the Far East for help. The Orient brings us many wonders of the culture and foods. A simple one to prepare and probably everyones favorite, is Baba Ghanoush and Star Anise Broiled Eggplant.
Baba Ghanoush By Brian Igarta
- 1 large eggplant (round)
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic (fine chop)
- 1 pinch cumin (ground)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoons cilantro
- 2 tablespoons tomato (fine dice- flesh only, remove seeds)
- salt, to taste
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Fork the eggplant in several places and place on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches over the fire. Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
Next place the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, peel and discard the skin. Place the eggplant in a bowl. Mash the eggplant to a paste. Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well. Season with salt, then adjust flavor-depending on size of eggplant. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well. Drizzle the flaxseed oil over the top and sprinkle parsley and cilantro, and diced tomato. Then fold everything in together.
When preparing this recipe, the key is to give the eggplant that smoky roasted flavor, and if a charcoal grill is no where to be found here are some hints we used to do in the kitchen. We would most of the time just place it over a gas stove, lay a wire rack over it, and broil on the stove. If that’s not available, I have from time to time used a propane gas torch used it for browning sugar. It’s a little bit more challenging this way, but can be done.
Try adding Baba Ghanoush to hummus.
Star Anise Broiled Eggplant
- 2-3 Japanese eggplant (long)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- one handful finely sliced basil or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons heaping nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg liquid aminos
- 2 tablespoons garlic (fine chop)
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon star anise (powder)
In bowl combine and mix all ingredients, except eggplant, and set aside. Set oven to high broil.
Slice eggplant on bias (diagonal) 1/4 inch thick, then coat eggplant with mixture, either by dipping or by tossing in bowl. Place pieces on sheet pan and broil, being careful not to burn them, then turn over ensuring both sides become browned and flesh is tender.
Place on serving platter and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onion.