Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eggplant, up a notch

There are some subtle things creeping into the blog posts that you may have noticed. One, that I moved recently. And that's taking up a lot of time, though I am still cooking a lot, I'm not writing much about it. And sometimes I cook, take photos, and do something dumb, like use the wrong white balance. So that's why you haven't seen some of my great slaw experiments. Coming soon, as soon as I get the camera kinks worked out.

The other subtle thing with big impact is that I joined a CSA a few weeks ago. CSA -- Community Supported Agriculture. Where I buy a share of the farmers crop and get a surprise box every Wednesday. It's been almost 10 years since I've been in a CSA, but since Susan likes vegetables and likes when I experiment, the time was ripe again.

There's a certain amount of stress that goes along with the CSA. That is to find something to do with everything before it goes bad. So there's a bit of triage that's needed when I open the box. Fortunately, Enterprise Farm, in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts gives me a day or two head start by sending out a newsletter at least warning me of what's coming. I know I need to deal with the softer leafy greens pretty quickly, and build my cooking routine around what needs to be eaten, tempered by what I feel like eating and what I think other people will feel like eating. There was a lot of basil and parsley the first few weeks, and since I grow those in pots, that was a challenge.

And arugula. Lots of it one week. And lots again this past week. That's a lot of peppery greens, but Susan's got a plan for those. Lots of dark leafy greens, which is great by me, but they take up a lot of room in the fridge. And beets, which fortunately keep for awhile (the bulbs, not the greens), since I ODed on those earlier in the season and over the winter with the beet and carrot salad.

In any case, I knew there was eggplant coming, and I've only recently started to like eggplant. It's been blazing hot lately too, so doing anything in the house with the stove was out. I did some web investigating for grilled eggplant recipes, which I've never done, and found that one in Kalyn's Kitchen provided the best inspiration -- Spicy Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper, Parsley and Mint

I found Kalyn's Kitchen through a couple of routes. It turns out that Kalyn is a friend of Bobbi, an old friend of Susan who just came to visit. And she mentioned Kalyn when I mentioned that I food-blogged. So I was even more inclined to look closely when one of her recipes popped up on by Google search for grilled eggplant.

I followed the basic directions for working with eggplant, including sprinkling with salt and letting drain. I did find that the end product may have been a bit too salty, even though I rinsed the salt off and squeezed out excess water -- I may have to use less salt next time. So, look at Kalyn's recipe for the basic technique.

What made this concept fabulous was pouring the marinade of the hot, freshly grilled eggplant. It was made up of olive oil, lime, garlic, and I used Chimayo Chili powder (Kalyn had aleppo pepper)and some red wine vinegar. I loved it. Susan thought it was a bit too spicy. So next time, I think I might try some pimenton, smoked paprika, instead. Looking forward to next time. When I hope to remember the parsley and mint (it was great without, but I'm sure it will be great with!)

I have a feeling this technique will work well with some other things, but the spongy eggplant seems particularly perfect to soak up a post-cooking marinade. I'm using a variation on that theme tomorrow to pre-marinate some steaks.

What made this meal work so well was that it was blazing hot out, so all the cooking was outside. We started with a board of meat, fish and cheese. It started with the smoked mackerel from Whole Foods, which had an assertive, but not overwhelming flavor. And a very tasty Roth's Private Reserve, raw milk cheese, obtained from Whole Foods to impress our recent French visitors with American cheeses. This is also assertive, but was a good complement to the fish. There was a goat cheese which was good, and some pepperoni, which was almost overwhelming, but had a nice kick to it. And a raw milk cheddar, which was pretty nondescript among all the stars, and could have been skipped. All with a fresh baguette.

And some fresh corn and green pepper, both on the grill rounded out the meal. I tried the corn two ways -- lightly rubbed with olive oil and set on low-medium heat, and wrapped in foil with a tiny bit of water leftover from rinsing the ears. I had the naked version (which I loved) and Susan had the clothed version (which she loved). When it's too hot to steam corn inside, you know it's hot.


  1. How fun! So glad you liked the eggplant. This recipe is a favorite of my brother Rand (who does the graphics and headers for the blog.)

  2. Kalyn...thanks for the inspiration. I got another eggplant in the farm share today, and hope to try the pimenton version soon.