Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Alternative to Baba Ghanoush

Matt and I attended a Potluck BBQ in JP last night for our friend Jules' 26th birthday.  I was planning on making baba ghanoush with the one lonely eggplant that had been sitting in our refrigerator since our last Boston Organics delivery, but while browsing Tastespotting, I came across a recipe for a spicy eggplant dip.  Eggplant, ginger, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro?  Yes, please.

I ended up following the recipe nearly to a T, which is a bit unusual for me, and I didn't even have to purchase any ingredients!  I had everything on hand; ginger and jalapenos keep extremely well in the freezer (just "defrost" under lukewarm water for a minute or so before chopping), and I have cilantro in my garden.

The only liberty I took (aside from using 1 TBS of oil instead of 2) was to char the eggplant under my broiler instead of on a grill (after all, the broiler is, in essence, an upside-down grill).  Two notes of caution: a) place something on the rack below the rack you set your eggplant on because when the skin blisters, liquid pours out, and b) use tongs, not just an oven mitt (whoops), to turn the eggplant every five minutes or so.  The liquid that drains is thick and VERY hot.

The dip was a huge hit - I only wished I had more of it!  The entire recipe, using a medium-sized eggplant, yielded only about a cup.  I plan on doubling the ingredients next time, and perhaps using the results as a sandwich or pizza spread in addition to "just" a dip.

Thank you, father-of-Seven-Spoons'-author, for what is sure to become a go-to recipe.

SPICY EGGPLANT DIP (adapted from seven spoons' "My father's eggplant spread")

(photo from seven spoons)

1 TBS canola oil or other neutral oil
1 medium eggplant (aubergine)
1 large onion, cut lengthwise, then into thin half moons
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 small green chili, diced (I used half a jalapeno, seeds and ribs included - discard these if you want yours to be more mild)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
salt to taste

Turn your broiler to "Lo" and position the top rack approximately 3" below from the oven ceiling.  Wash and dry your eggplant, and then place on the top rack just below the flame.  Turn every five minutes or so until the skin is dark, blistered, and peeling, and dark liquid drains from the inside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 TBS of canola or other neutral oil in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat.  Saute the onions, ginger, and garlic for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so, until the onion is translucent and the garlic is sweet.  Add the chili and the cilantro and cook for 5 minutes more (note: if you want a stronger cilantro flavor, wait to add this until the end).

By now, the eggplant should be done cooking.  Remove it from the oven and gingerly remove the skin, being careful not to burn yourself.  Chop the meat roughly (it should basically fall apart on its own) and add to the pan, stirring to combine.  Increase the heat to medium, add a dash or two of salt, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the eggplant has darkened and the ingredients are fully combined.

Remove from the heat and eat at room temperature.

- M

Horticulturally Challenged

Despite my extreme reservations, I decided to bite the bullet and plant an herb garden.

I had a bunch of free time on my hands last month while Matt spent two weeks in China for a wedding, so I called my Mom (the resident Green Thumb) and asked for her help in starting a garden.  She was more than happy to oblige, so we went to Russell's Garden Center in Wayland together to get everything I needed before heading back to my place in Somerville.

It took us a few hours of hard labor to clear the "backyard" (a 6' X 12' patch of ground nestled behind the porch), and then not only did we plant our new purchases, but we uncovered a bunch of great pre-existing plants to boot!  There were rhubarb plants, hostas, creeping flox, and lilies - and that was only in the back.

(Day Three)

The next weekend, Mom came out again and helped me fix up the small, fenced-in gardens on the front and side of the house.  There were many hidden jewels there, too, including a plethora of spearmint that Matt and I later used to make delicious mint juleps (note: beware the hangover).

I've had some touch-and-go moments with the cilantro and parsely, but all in all, things are still looking good.  I've already used almost all of the herbs in my cooking (and drinking!), and the berries and chilis are coming along nicely.

We planted the following:

basil, Thai basil

mint, strawberries
Thai chilis

I can't wait to see how the fruits and vegetables turn out ...