Melanzana, aubergine, mad apple–it’s all eggplant to me

“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)

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First the flower, then the emerging fruit and finally the fully grown black beauty.
Eggplants making their way in the garden.

And yes, eggplant, as it is commonly referred to here in the US, is indeed a fruit and not a vegetable–matter of fact, it’s actually considered a berry.
Who knew?
Another little known fact is that eggplants contain nicotine, but the levels are so negligible that those smokers out there don’t need to get all excited.

Because I am Sophia Loren’s love child—oh you didn’t know that?
Don’t worry, Sophia Loren doesn’t know it either, but don’t tell my college roommates that.
They were convinced. Has to do with all that adoption business and a love of all things Italian but I digress as usual.
I thought at an early age I needed to add the eggplant to my palate.

And those giant purple things found in the grocery store can be a bit intimidating to the home cook. I mean really, what does one do with a giant purple globule of a veg. . . eh, fruit?!

Yes there is the standard quasi Italian eggplant parmesan, and the French melange of ratatouille, but I live in the South remember—we fry everything, including eggplant.

I wonder why that is.
I’ve never really stopped long enough to research why we southerners find it important to fry almost anything and everything. Didn’t I once read that Elvis’s favorite food was to fry a bacon, peanut-butter and banana sandwich? And now there’s tell of fried oreo cookies, and fried ice-cream and fried cheesecake—but the standard bearers are of course fried chicken, fired okra and fried green tomatoes. . .well, there’s just not much anything better than any of those nor anything much more Southern—except for maybe fried eggplant.

Here’s a couple of shots from a previous frying episode

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Here’s a quick tutorial to serving fried eggplant.

I always peel my eggplant—the skin can often taste bitter and does not break down well when fired, making for unpleasant eating. I find that store bought eggplant’s skin is more bitter and tough than my garden fresh variety, but it just makes for easier eating to peel it away.

Slice the eggplant into thin rounds.
The pictures here are of the large more global shaped eggplant verses the more sledder Japanese eggplant pictured earlier in the post–either one works splendidly.

There are even white eggplants–which seem to fit the whole name thing much better than the purple specimens.
I grew white ones once.
My husband likened them to looking more like dinosaur eggs than a delectable vegetable / fruit and was a bit put off—hence my now standard bearer purple variety.

First, I soak my eggplant in buttermilk.

Often folks will salt the rounds, layering them in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes, as this helps to remove the bitterness in the seeds (I wonder if that’s where the nicotine is hiding, hence the bitterness. . .)
I find that the soak in buttermilk is sufficient to render excess moisture and any lurking bitterness–soak about 30 minutes.

Prepare a plate or shallow pan with a mix of cornmeal, a little flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice addition that may float your boat–making for a nice dredging mixture.

Prepare a skillet with about a 1/2 inch of canola oil and heat over med heat until a pinch of flour dropped in sizzles or for the more exact among us—between 275 and 325 degrees.

Remove a round at a time out of its soaking liquid, allowing it to drip free of excess buttermilk— then dredge the eggplant round in the cornmeal mix, coating throughly on both sides.

Place coated rounds in the pan making certain not to overcrowd or overlap.

Fry on one side till a nice golden brown then flip to finish the other side.

Remove the cooked rounds to a wire rack to drain.

Fry remaining rounds then lightly salt, dust with grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. You may serve with a dipping sauce of choice—a spicy remoulade, or fresh tomato salsa is nice, but my husband prefers a horseradish sauce for a little kick.

Enjoy!!
Mangia!

Endings and Beginnings

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T. S. Eliot

Ahh…and so it is with each passing season of life……

Here are the dregs of the garden. The last remaining diehard eggplants have been cut. The soil shall be re-tilled and over-planted in winter rye for the deer to nibble on throughout the winter.

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The ending of what remains from summer now gives way to cooler evenings and the soon to be blooming Chrysanthemums…

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As we find ourselves in this time of transition– of endings and beginnings, I can’t help but think of changes–changes that are beyond our control such as the seasons of growing and dying, and then the changes that are within our control such as changes of habits and outlooks.

The following is an epitaph that is inscribed upon one of the myriad of bishop’s graves who lay buried within the hallows of Westminster Abbey, it dates to 1100 AD—a good thought as we focus on this time of Change……

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But, it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would have then been able to better my country, and who knows,
I may even have changed the world.”

Summer’s bounty is looking promising

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I snapped this picture last evening. These tiny green lobes are the future baby roma tomatoes calling out to my spaghetti sauce. Everything but the watermelons, pinto beans, cucumbers and swiss chard are in the ground, good to go. Calling all bees and pollinators!!!

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
Use 1 or 2 nice sized round (not roma for this) green tomatoes—slice–not too thin, not too thick
buttermilk for soaking
Canola oil for frying (trust me, a fried green tomato is worth it)
a mix of corn meal, a tad of flour, and panko bread crumbs for dredging
salt/ pepper/ hungarian paprika and any other dried seasoning combination that may strike your fancy–sprinkle it into your cornmeal mixture and toss well with a fork)

–Slice unpeeled tomatoes placing in a shallow dish, cover with buttermilk for 30 min unrefrigerated– or– longer in the fridge but do let them sit out for at least 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook, allowing them to come to room temp as this helps in the cooking process.

–when you’re ready to cook the tomatoes, pour enough oil in a skillet to easily hold the tomato slices—no deep fat fryer necessary, I just use a cast iron skillet–Lodge or a Le Creuset or even just a stainless frying pan such as All Clad. Heat up the oil–I drop a bread crumb in the heating oil and when the bread crumb sizzles, I’m good to go. ( I am not of the thermometer variety)

–take a tomato slice from the buttermilk, allowing it to drip off any excess liquid. Dredge the tomato in the cornmeal mixture ( a mix of primarily corn meal, add a tad of flour and some panko bread crumbs, add some salt, pepper, and I like Hungarian paprika and maybe a little creole seasoning for a kick, or dried thyme, a smidge of cayenne…suit you own taste buds)

–begin placing prepped tomatoes into the hot oil–fill the pan but do not over crowd or your slices will not fry evenly–probably just 3 or 4 slices depending on the size of slice.

–Watching closely, use tongs to turn tomatoes once they’re lightly browned on the first side. Once the slices are nice and lightly browned on each side, remove from pan and place on a rack in order to allow any dripping oil to drip away…if you just put them on a plate directly out of the pan, they tend to sweat on the bottom losing that nice crunch as they become soggy….

I just lightly salt them—you may serve them with a horseradish sauce, a flavored mayonnaise, greek yogurt, etc.. maybe a nice sweet and sour onion confit sounds tasty..

I don’t have a picture of my fried green tomatoes but I do have one of my fried eggplant–which gives you some idea of the color you’re looking for…substitute eggplant if you’d like but they need to soak a while longer in the buttermilk to loose any bitterness from their seeds

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Also here is a shot of my favorite appetizer—bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, fresh herbs, a touch of country dijon mustard and feta cheese—ummmmmm, pour the prosecco and enjoy

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And lastly a warm tomato flan I made that was to die for (yes Val, I am still here, but it is a heavenly dish) served with a warm infused basil olive oil—

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I’ll add that recipe later as this post was just intended to be a picture of baby tomatoes—see what happens when I start thinking about the bounty of the garden—-nothing like a garden fresh tomato, or eggplant, or corn, or zucchini, or squash, or………………………