terça-feira, 22 de janeiro de 2008

HUNGRY...think purple !

Is it possible to hate something if you haven’t really tried it?

Although its colors may vary from pearl white to almost dark chocolate, most of Portugal knows it for it’s large oval shape and beautiful shiny coat of dark purple.

It’s a common vegetable which has made it’s way through almost every Mediterranean household.

You guessed it…Eggplant/or Aubergine .

This innocent and diverse vegetable has not reached it’s “highest recognition”- due to the fact most people are serving it undercooked.
If you have tried it in the past - and it feels less than “soft baked apple texture” when you put it in your mouth - you have yet to savor its potential flavor!
There are a few things we need to know before we take home this potato-pepper-tomato descendant!
Eggplant holds a certain amount of moisture, and not like other moist vegetables, it contains a peculiar bitterness. This bitterness is the blame for eggplant making the “black list” while passing through the vegetable isle. Be daring and take a couple home – “test drive eggplant for the first time in 5th gear”. Here are a few simple tricks to getting it right the next time.

 Most Important - remove the bitterness!

1-slice the eggplant/soak it in water and salt/cover with a plate to keep it below water for a few hours/squeeze excess water before use.

2- slice the eggplant and sprinkle some salt on both sides/allow to rest on counter for 1hr/be sure to place some paper towels or clean cloth on bottom.

3-Do what I do-slice the eggplant and sprinkle some sugar on both sides/allow to rest on paper towels or clean cloth for 30 minutes.

This procedure is perfect if you want to sauté or steam the eggplant. Keep in mind..the bigger we cut it..the longer it will take to cook!
Be sure to use a non-stick pan, a splash of olive oil and keep the heat on very low. There will be a time it will seem the eggplant has “sucked up all the oil”. This is normal. Do not add more oil. After a given time, the moisture will release itself naturally from the vegetable. Continue to stir from time to time until it becomes extremely soft. Remove excess oil and continue to cook with low heat – turning on all sides. At this point - you can add cut meat, onions, fish, fresh tomato-you name it. The possibilities are endless!

Another simple way to try eggplant:

Cut it in ½ long ways and sprinkle some sugar on top of “meat”. Place it on a roasting pan with skin side down-meat side up. Add some water on bottom of pan and place in the oven about 180. Allow to cook until the insides become extremely soft. (Not less than 30/40 minutes depending on size). It’s difficult to overcook-so don’t worry if the skin looks dark and it’s completely separating from the insides-it’s even better!
Afterwards-remove the “meat” using a soupspoon. Allow cooling down and refrigerate. This can be your base for several quick and easy dishes.
When guests arrive-sauté garlic and oil add the roasted eggplant, fresh cut tomato and continue to sauté. Season with salt/pepper. Top with goat cheese (or preferred cheese) and serve with toasts.

Or –sauté onions with olive oil till golden and soft, add the roasted eggplant, peeled shrimp, fresh tomato, coriander and continue to cook covered on low heat till shrimp are cooked. Season with salt/pepper and add to your favorite pasta - or bruschetta!

"give eggplant a second chance"

Chef Guerrieri

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