All the fond memories that eggplant has inspired.


Does anyone have any really cute stories about eggplant? I’m at a loss. Sure, Mom made eggplant parmesan when we were kids and it was good. I can’t get enough Thai eggplant with Thai basil – in fact I had some last night – but that’s hardly an endearing memory.

Here’s the best I’ve got: Eggplant is from the family Solanaceae which includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other members of the nightshade family. It is susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases including soil borne fungi. For that reason, farmers have to rotate crops and let several years pass between growing more eggplant  in the same soil. Fascinating, right?

When I was a young plant nerd selling super-cool plants for Quansett Nurseries, I had the opportunity to meet Victory Garden host, Roger Swain. Trust me kids, this is like sitting next to Justin Bieber on the bus. He told me about a process they had developed in Japan to graft disease-resistant root stock onto eggplant plants to avoid the need for crop rotations, AND they were doing this with robots. Cue the fainting couch – I was over-nerded. (This is like playing video games on your couch with Grant Morrison while talking about his runs on Animal Man and Doom Patrol – freakin’ cool, right?)

So, no fond memories behind this dish. It’s adapted from my vegetarian cookbook girlfriend* Deborah Madison, and the combination is inspired.

*To be clear, a “cookbook girlfriend” is an author whose recipes I feel a strong connection with. I have never actually met her.

 

Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2” x 2” sticks
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper and Blackberry vinegar*
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbs mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil

*From Sapore of course! Buy it online here or substitute a good, complex Sherry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Sprinkle eggplant with 1 tbs salt. After 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry. This takes the bitterness out of the eggplant and makes it easier to brown.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Sauté eggplant for 12-15 minutes until browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in 1 tbs olive oil until softened and starting to brown on edges.
  • Turn up heat, add vinegar, honey and tomato. Cook, stirring frequently until vinegar evaporates, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in eggplant, mint and cheese.
  • Sweet and sour is all about the flavor balance between sugar, salt and acidity. Check the flavor and add vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.

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