In Search of Tahini

I thought I was through writing about eggplant, but I’m not. Last time I was dishing about my eggplants I was roasting more than twenty of them to freeze in cubes and make puree. Now the cubes are in the freezer, and I scrounged up more containers for the puree too, but I didn’t want to just freeze all of it. I want to use some of the fresh puree to make baba ghannouge, which I have never made before. But even without looking up a recipe, I already know that I need tahini (sesame seed paste). So I have unfinished business with my eggplant puree, and we definitely did not grow any sesame seeds this summer!

Having now lived in Greenville for a little more than ten years I can say that I have lived here continuously longer than I have lived anywhere else. In my travels I have turned to middle eastern shops, when available, for a nutritious and reasonably priced meal. But in all the time that I have been here I never knew about Pita House, both a middle eastern market and restaurant. There’s a sign on the door that says cash or check only, and that’s the way they have been doing it for thirty two years now, according to the very friendly and polite young man at the register. They had tahini at a reasonable price, and I bought two pounds.

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Even More Ways to Preserve Eggplant

I’m always seeing hearts in my vegetables…

A month ago I was writing about what to do with eggplant because I had so many in my kitchen. In that post I talked about making fried eggplant and eggplant parmesan. When eggplant love is new it tastes so sweet and delicious. After a couple months of eating and freezing the stuff, I start to think about other vegetables again. My husband stopped watering his garden about a month ago, after he harvested everything else. He left his eggplants to their own devices while it was very hot and dry. We had almost no rain that whole time. But to our surprise, the eggplants have thrived while gardens have withered all over the Upstate.

We have trouble giving eggplant away. Our friends and neighbors mostly don’t like or never tried an eggplant and don’t show any signs of changing their minds. I was tempted to just let those eggplants go to seed, but they looked so big and beautiful; it would have been a shame and a waste. So yesterday I went down in the field and picked most of them, and also dealt with them very quickly after looking for some new ideas online and finding a couple at FreshBitesDaily.com.

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What to do with that eggplant…

Eggplants to give away…

We have an abundance of eggplant in our garden right now and were trying to give some away. But most of our friends ask us what they are supposed to do with eggplant, which they apparently don’t usually purchase in the grocery store. So, for our friends, and others who might be offered bounty from a friend’s garden this time of year, here are some suggestions for what to do with that big, purple beauty.

The easiest thing to do with an eggplant is probably to peel it, cut it into smallish cubes, boil it with some salt until soft, and strain it. You could add your cooked eggplant to a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, casserole or soup….

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Eggplant Season

We have a lot of eggplants coming in from the garden right now. I have two ways that I prepare eggplant and am contemplating a third. I fry the slices or I make my own version of eggplant parmesan (which also involves frying the eggplant ahead of time.) Either way I prep the sliced eggplant first by sprinkling sea salt over the slices and letting them sweat for an hour two. I learned that from Molly, an Italian woman who used to watch my boys when they were very young and we were living in California.

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Freezing Vegetables for Virgins

Greens can be thoroughly washed, drained, sliced and then frozen raw.

Greens can be thoroughly washed, drained, sliced and then frozen raw.

When you first start gardening, it is enough to just enjoy what you grow. But even as a beginner you run the risk of growing more than you can use of notorious growers like zucchini. If you don’t keep a garden, but miss the farmer’s market in the winter time, you could think about buying in bulk in the summertime and cooking up some double portions for now and later. Freezing is the quickest, easiest way to save your abundance for later. If you’ve never frozen more than the occasional leftovers, and your freezer is just for ice cream, you’re missing a chance to put a little convenience into your healthy diet.

Not all  vegetables are created equal. There are some that really don’t take well to freezing unless cooked first, like cabbage. Others, like cucumbers, you can’t freeze at all. There are some authoritative sites on the web that you can refer to for specific vegetables,  and squashes. One of my favorite sites is Pickyourown.org. Clemson University is also a great resource for detailed information. But you don’t have to be an expert to get started. You really don’t have to know much at all. You can freeze most vegetables quickly and conveniently. Continue reading

Smothered Eggplant a New Southern Classic

Lately the garden has been giving us lots of eggplant and bell peppers. I’ve gotten used to making a classic eggplant parmesan, and also breaded fried eggplant. When I call something classic, these days, it’s because when I look up recipes on-line I come across numerous, almost identical recipes. If I am ignorant about a particular food, a classic recipe is a great starting point.

So, the other night I prepared some fried eggplant as a side dish. I also wanted to use up some oldish dinner rolls. I cut them in half and laid them in a baking dish with a little milk in the bottom. Then I looked up some biscuit and gravy recipes, looking for a gravy to make. Another classic, I found out, is sausage gravy over biscuits, but we don’t eat pork sausage, and I didn’t have any kind of sausage anyway. But I found something similar at http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/38421/Biscuit-Gravy. When we sat down to eat, my husband mused that fried eggplant with gravy would make a good dish. So on Monday night I got out a baking dish and put leftover rice on the bottom, the leftover fried eggplant in a layer over the rice, and the leftover biscuit gravy over all that, and warmed it up as another side dish; (Monday is leftovers night.) For someone who prefers to taste the expected (as opposed to the unexpected) that went over really well with my southern husband (maybe because he thought of it.)

Most southerners I meet have never cooked an eggplant, even if they have heard of one (not common.) But if they made it like this, with their favorite biscuit gravy recipe, then eggplant would become a new southern classic I am sure! Another thing I have now done with eggplant is to make a stuffing, or dressing as they say down here. Originally I got the idea from Emeril. He has an eggplant casserole recipe that I tried. It has a lot of bread crumbs in it, which made it taste a little like a dressing. Last night I made a roast chicken. Instead of the bread crumbs, I used some more leftover bread and biscuits that I cut up in cubes and toasted in the oven first. Instead of the cream in his recipe, I used broth that I made with the gizzards and some onion and carrot. This made a delicious eggplant dressing to eat with the chicken. I managed to use up three eggplants this way. I used the rest of the broth to make a creamless gravy as well.

Yum. We eat really well around here, if I may say so myself.