Monday, August 31, 2015

Eggplantapalooza! Is that a Word?

In my world, there are several ingredients that make up a great day - hanging out with family and time to create in my kitchen are two things that top my list. This Sunday was one of those days :) 

Sunday morning, I decided to run a few errands and was happy that my sister was available to go with me at the last minute. Getting things accomplished and hanging out with the best sister - Win/Win :)

First up, I had 4 boxes of leftover flooring to return. I was running out of time for their 90 day return policy. I couldn't find the receipt, but then I read online that they have kiosk at the store where you can enter your account number and print a new receipt. Genius idea and it worked perfectly. (It was nice, as a customer, to benefit from all the data a store collects for their own use.)

Since we were near the fabric stores (and I had that return money burning a hole in my pocket) we stopped in to check out flannel for baby blankets. I hope my niece is ready for the influx of baby blankets I will be making for the grand-niece. There are SO many cute flannels and you can never have too many blankets, right?  Sorry, I can't share a fabric preview. I never know when my niece might peek in on my blog.

Last stop was Fresh Thyme grocery store. It is a bit like a Trader Joe's. It is always fun to go to a new store and check out the different products. Our ladies group had quite a discussion on jerky this week. So when I saw this one I immediately thought of them...but did not buy it.
I loved their little bags of produce. These Brussels sprouts were gigantic. Check them out in comparison to the potatoes below.
This caught my eye.  Yet another way I could try to like eggplant :)  I didn't buy it though. I figured I was already in over my head on the eggplant front (read on for details).
There were a couple of stations set up to grind your own fresh nut butters. My sister gave the honey roasted peanuts a try - tasty!
I am not even sure there is anything I can say about this. This would be my husband's absolute candy nightmare. Chocolate and gummy candies are on his "yuck list" individually  - I can't even begin to imagine how quickly the combination would send him over the edge.
When we got home I put my feet up for a few. We watched a couple episodes of the FX series Fargo. That is one weird show. I am pretty sure that if we were trying to watch it week to week I would have checked out by now. But we had rented the DVD and we are halfway through season one. Millie helped keep me entertained with a good look at her chompers. She is obsessed with lying in crazy poses lately.

The rest of Sunday afternoon was dedicated to eggplants. On an impulse, I bought two eggplant plants this spring for my garden - one purple and one white. Both plants have produced well. Here's the problem - I don't like eggplant. That is to say, in my earlier experiences with eggplant I was not a fan. To be fair, that was years ago and my understanding is that tastes change. So with my army of eggplants lined up, I set myself about finding out if I currently like eggplants.

About a week ago I put out a request for eggplant recommendations on Facebook. I got a great response and enjoyed reading all the recipes. Truth is, the opinions were quite varied.

"Eggplant parmesan and baba ganoush are my favorites at the moment . . . ESPECIALLY baba ganoush. Mmmmm . . . intend to make a big batch this weekend." Several people recommended baba ganoush or similar spicy eggplant dips.

"Step 1. Take eggplant and toss in trash. Step 2. Get real food. Step 3. Enjoy." This suggestion made me laugh out loud.

"But moussaka is really good. Time consuming... but worth it." I actually made moussaka back in high school and the eggplant was the part I didn't like about it. Funny story - when my sister was tasting the eggplant creations yesterday, she brought up the "gross moussaka Mom made" when she was a kid. Hey! That was me who made that moussaka!!

"I make ratatouille with mine. I'll find the recipe I use. Super easy and my anti-meatless meal husband loves it!"  Ratatouille is another recipe that intrigued me.

"Throw them in the trash." And another vote for throwing them in the trash...hmm do I dare go on with my experiment?

Ultimately, I decided on two recipes. Sorry to those who voted "trash" I nurtured those babies all summer I was definitely going to try to do something yummy with them. 

Recipe One - Baba Ganoush
recipe from Inspired Taste

Since baba ganoush or spicy eggplant dips were the most recommended dish, it seemed the best place to start. This recipe was the tried and true recommendation of one my college friends (see comment above). 

Eggplants pricked with a fork and ready for roasting. I wasn't sure if there were significant flavor differences between the two varieties so I decided to use on of each color in each of my recipes. In retrospect, I wish I had saved a little for a taste test of the two varieties.
Roasted eggplant is not an attractive sight.

After roasting the eggplant is removed from the skin and mashed up with a fork. Then I combined it with the rest of the ingredients - tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, cumin, garlic and after it cools, chopped parsley. Essentially this dip is very much like hummus with a slightly different flavor from the eggplant.

Recipe 2 - Sicilian Caponata
recipe from Eating Well

I was intrigued by ratatouille, but was afraid it would be a little too veggie stew for me. In general, I am not a fan of veggie soups. I found this caponata recipe and it seemed like it had some of the same flavors of the ratatouille but with a little extra that might take it away from veggie stew. Okay, maybe it was because I knew I would be spreading it on bread :) 
I had heard that eggplant seeds can be bitter. I wasn't quite sure how to get the seeds out so I left most of them in. I didn't noticed any bitterness.
I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma of the sauteeing eggplant.

With all that I had going on in the kitchen I used a Rachael Ray tip - the garbage bowl. One bowl on the counter to toss all your scraps and trash in while you work. It is much more convenient and cleaner then constantly carrying stuff to the trash can.  Any old bowl will do, but in a moment of weakness I bought the official Rachael Ray garbage bowl. To be honest a big part of the reason I like my garbage bowl is that it reminds me of fun times with my nephew. When he was little we would cook together and he loved Rachael Ray. I will never forget him referring to her as "the one with the smooth hair" :)  He is sixteen now and we don't have as much opportunity to hang out, but those memories will last a lifetime and some day I will buy him a garbage bowl of his own :) 
When I finished cooking I realized I had basically made two dips for dinner. Not such a bad thing. I wasn't actually planning on eating this for dinner, but I couldn't resist. This is not my husband's idea of dinner, so instead he had his most favorite food. No, not pizza - gasp! Chicken with cream cheese, jalapeno, cilantro filling - wrapped in bacon and grilled. They are a colossal pain to make, but he loves them so much he helps me assemble them.

Back to the eggplant. I actually enjoyed both of the dishes. The caponata could have used a little more pop. I didn't have capers and I think that might have made the difference. Or maybe the addition of something a little spicy - red pepper flakes? I almost didn't include the celery because I generally don't like cooked celery (my issue with many veggie soups). It actually was fine in this recipe. The baba ganoush was probably my favorite of the two. Of the two recipes, it had the most eggplant flavor (from the roasting I would imagine). It is quite similar to hummus (which I am a fan of) with the eggplant replacing the chick peas (garbanzo beans).

The bottom line is I am counting Operation Make Me Like Eggplant a success. Then again, perhaps anything is delicious if transported to your mouth on yummy naan and sourdough breads. I am not sure how often I would make either of these recipes, since I am always looking to try new things. At least now I know eggplant can be a part of my culinary repertoire. And yes, a plant or two will be in my garden again next year :)

Next up in my effort to like foods I previously hated....lentils. The other day when I was home after my surgery I caught an episode of  Barefoot Contessa "A Tale of Two Soups" on which Ina Garten made a Lentil and Sausage Soup that really looked good, even though I despise (or used to despise lentils). She also made a seafood stew I would love to make, but my husband would surely move out and I would have no money left to support myself after spending it all on the seafood needed for that recipe :(

Is there a food that you have disliked and would be willing to experiment to see if you could like it now?

One more thing - my workout plans for this week. I am hoping scheduling and sharing them will keep me on the right path.  Tuesday - morning walk / Thursday - morning walk / Saturday (or Sunday) - swim at gym. I am also looking at class schedules at the gym for a yoga or dance class. 


Linking up Pinch of Joy for Busy Monday


  1. What beautiful pictures of your food prep. I've never tried eggplant but I always say I don't like it. I think I may try it after seeing yours! :)

    1. Thanks! Let me know if you try it - and the verdict :)

  2. Glad you gave eggplant the shot it deserved and didn't just throw it in the trash ha! Your baba ganoush looks awesome!

    1. A couple days of eating it and I would say the baba ganoush is my preferred dish of the two. I think I am going to have a couple more eggplants mature so I will need to decide on another dish :)

  3. I used to despise watermelon, radishes and ham of all things. I now eat all of them pretty willingly. Cauliflower and water chestnuts will always remain on the "vegetables they serve in hell" list though. I actually love lentils, but question, what do you dislike? Is it the texture? Some varieties are super mushy and I hate that! I like the ones that stay a little more firm, like brown lentils or French lentils.

    1. I am not sure what it is about lentils - I remember there was a taste issue, but maybe texture was part of it. I seem to remember the lentils being very dark. The ones I bought for my upcoming experiment are French lentils so I am happy to see your good report of them :) Stay tuned...