Our two most recent deliveries from Chubeza contained a beautiful surprise: the season's first nice, fresh, purple eggplants. What a thrill! Being a Middle Easterner means that I love eggplants a great deal, and have cooked them in many different ways. There aren't many things that are as local as eggplants; Israelis love them almost as much as they love their tomatoes and eat them in every possible form, from baba ganoush to mousakka to quiches to simply roasted slices with goat cheese and olive oil.
Some people have a hesitant relationship with eggplants. This stems from two main reasons. First, eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which has been much maligned in relation to diseases like fibromayalgia. Some nutritionsts recommend avoiding nightshade vegetables altogether, a penalty inconceivable from the perspective of a Mediterranean person: that would mean giving up tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. Ah, the horror! Indeed, nightshades contain a certain amount of poisonous components, but these are, according to most nutritionists, ruined in cooking, and they have several nutritional benefits to offer. Eggplants, for example, contain several vitamins from the B family, as well as manganese, copper, potassium, and folic acid. Not in great amounts, but still, they are all there.
The second reason people fear eggplants is their capacity to absorb unbelievable amounts of oil. Many eggplant dishes are extremely greasy and, while eggplant itself is quite lean, with the oil it can become a bit of a fat trap, albeit a delicious one.
Here's one pretty basic thing you can do with your eggplants. Eggplant salad is magnificent in sandwiches or as a nice dish garnished with vegetable sticks. Here, one finds it often in two combinations: with mayonnaise, and with the more common tchina as baba ganoush. This recipe is my (successful, hurrah!) attempt to recreate my grandma's version, which uses neither, and showcases the eggplant in all its glory.
5 garlic cloves
juice from 1 lemon
Cut the eggplants lengthwise. Unlike other eggplant recipes, there is no need to salt the eggplants or let them "sweat" - the bitterness actually makes this better.
Place the eggplant halves, face down, on aluminum foil, and stick in a 200 degree celsius oven for about twenty minutes. You know the eggplants are ready when their peel becomes all brownish-black and charred.
After taking them out of the oven, we grab a nice spoon and scoop the eggplant's meat into a bowl. This can be a bit tricky, but I urge you to scrape out as much as you can. If you're crazy, like me, you'll enjoy munching on the empty baked peels after you're done.
The eggplant meat goes into the food processor with the lemon juice and the garlic, or, if you like your salad chunkier, you can mash it with a fork.