battle 6–day 1–eggplant

Here’s the sum total of what I know about eggplant: it’s purple. I learned that when I first started this project and did a Google image search of all the veggies I might have to eat. The only other thing I know (and this is really more of an opinion than actual knowledge) is that it has a weird fucking name. Egg. Plant. What about it exactly is so egg-y? I had a little conversation with Wikipedia about this, but he/she didn’t really know why it’s called that. But then, THEN, Wikipedia told me this, and I’m going to semi-quote Wikipedia on this because Wikipedia is such a reliable source: The eggplant is a plant that bears a fruit of the same name, which is commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. WTF, Wikipedia?

Considering eggplant’s indecision about whether it wants to be a fruit or a vegetable reminded me that Supporter Elwood told me a while ago that the difference between fruits and vegetables is totally murky. Here’s what I learned from another little chat with Wikipedia:

  • The term fruit has different meanings depending on context, and the term is not synonymous in food preparation and biology. Fruits are the means by which flowering plants disseminate seeds, and the presence of seeds indicates that a structure is most likely a fruit, though not all seeds come from fruits. (I love how the people who write on Wikipedia vary from writing in a pedantic-like language that resembles Old English to completely disregarding punctuation. Get it together, Wikipedia.)
  • A vegetable is an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. However, the word is not scientific, and its meaning is largely based on culinary and cultural tradition. Therefore, the application of the word is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. For example, some people consider mushrooms to be vegetables, while others consider them a separate food category. (Like what other food category, Wikipedia?)

fruit or veg

Wikipedia also says legumes, including peas and beans, are fruit, so I’m seriously considering whether that means I can cut out bean week (holy please!!). Ooh, beets are fruit, too! Wikipedia is my new best friend. Wait, beets are also vegetables. Wikipedia and I just broke up.

Regardless of whether eggplant is a fruit or a vegetable, it’s still on the list for this week and there’s nothing I can do about it now but eat it. My plans for eggplant week include eggplant parmesan at our favorite Italian restaurant; grilled eggplant with friends; and fried eggplant, which My New Favorite Person Mindy told me was the best way to eat eggplant, and you know I can’t resist the deep fryer, so that’s going right to the top of the list. Friends are also now suggesting on e-mail some other complicated sounding recipes, but I think they all forgot I don’t know how to cook.

I officially started eggplant week yesterday because we went out of town for the holiday weekend and only got back late Monday night; then I didn’t have time, energy or inclination to shop for groceries after a big party weekend, so eggplant week also started with dinner out. David gets all the credit for dinner last night because I’m so super dead serious when I say the only thing I know about eggplant is that it’s purple (and I might not even be 100 percent right about that, according to my fair-weather friend, Wikipedia). I have no idea what dishes people make with it, where to go to find it on a menu, if it’s a main or a side, nothing. No idea. So David had his most genius moment of the whole project and suggested that we go for Greek so I could have mousaka, which is apparently a staple on Greek menus and one of the main things in the world that has eggplant in it. Of course I’ve never heard of it.

We checked the menu for Athens Pizza House and found the perfect meal for me: a mousaka and pastitsio combo meal. I still had no idea what either of these dishes looked like, but the description of them—layers of eggplant, potatoes and ground beef with a creamy béchamel sauce and hollow pasta mixed with ground beef and topped with a creamy béchamel sauce—guaranteed that I would be able to try this week’s veg but still have a meat-and-potatoes out in case the eggplant made me vomit on myself.

So Mister Server Guy brought out my combo meal and both the mousaka and the pastitsio looked exactly the same. A cursory visit to Google images this morning confirmed that’s not totally out of the ordinary, but I’m not altogether certain the kitchen didn’t give me two pieces of mousaka or two pieces of pastitsio. Also, I don’t know what Athens Pizza House thinks “creamy” means, but there was nothing creamy about the two blobs of gelatin-like casserole-ish beige foods on my plate. On the up side, they were beige, and we know how I feel about beige food. I poked around looking for the eggplant, and David said, it’s right there, and pointed to nothing. I said, where? And he said, there! And pointed to nothing again. So, I just ate them both without having any idea which one supposedly had eggplant in it. They tasted like beige food.

my mousaka didn't look anything like this

So because I don’t even know if I ate eggplant last night, much less whether I liked or disliked it, I think it doesn’t count. I’m calling this one a total foul, off sides, out of bounds, violation of Geneva Conventions Article 9002. Tonight, take two.


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8 thoughts on “battle 6–day 1–eggplant

  1. I’ve been meaning to send you this…just do it, it is delish:
    Eggplant Lasagna with Herbed Ricotta and Asiago

    1/2lb plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
    1 clove garlic
    4 tbsp olive oil
    kosher salt and black pepper
    2 eggplants (about 3 lbs) sliced lengthwise (about 1/4″ thick)
    1c ricotta
    1 large egg
    1/2c chopped fresh basil
    1/4c grated Asiago or Parmesan

    -Heat broiler. In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, garlic, 1tbsp of the oil, and 1/4tsp each of salt and pepper.

    -in two batches, arrange the eggplant on a broiler-proof baking sheet, brush with 2 tbsp of the oil, and season with 1/2tsp of salt and 1/4tsp of pepper. Broil until charred and tender (3-4 minutes per side)

    -Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, basil, and 1/4tsp of salt and pepper

    -Spread half the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8” square baking dish. On top of it, layer a third of the eggplant and half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat with another layer of eggplant and ricotta. Top with remaining eggplant and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the Asiago.

    -Reduce oven to 400 degrees F and bake until bubbling (about 15-20 minutes). Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

  2. I know that you are supposed to beat eggplant before cooking to get rid of the bitterness… Please don’t ask me how to go about doing so. You’d think it would be like one of those gopher games because it would be rolling around on the counter. I conveniently forgot about eggplant week. And that I’m supposed to join the challenge.

  3. So I have this recipe for stuffed eggplant. It contains the regulars – cheese, bread crumbs and sausage. But I’m thinking it’s not going to hold a candle to fried eggplant. Fried anything is better than non-fried anything. Have I mentioned how jealous I am that you have your own deep fryer? I am jealous. Very much.

    1. We keep our kitchen pretty tidy and most small appliances live in cabinets, but I think the fryer just found itself a permanent home right on our counter top. I look at it every day and think, what can I fry today? You have to get one. It’s amazing.

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