Eggplant, take three. If I wasn’t the winning kind, eggplant might have beaten me. Fortunately for me, I’m the winning kind. I win shit.
After two neither successful nor unsuccessful attempts to take down eggplant—with mousaka on Tuesday and eggplant parm on Wednesday—I was back at it last night with not one, not two, but three different eggplant dishes.
Dish 1: Baba Ghanoush
I’ve heard of baba ghanoush before, but I think I thought it was a character in a Disney movie. Apparently it’s food. It was described to me as similar to hummus but made with smoked eggplant instead of tahini. I don’t know what tahini is, so that didn’t mean much to me, but I tried it and it was fine. I love hummus, I have a serious addiction to hummus, so I’m not sure I would choose baba ghanoush over hummus ever (I definitely wouldn’t, no way), but it was fine.
As a neither-here-nor-there side note, I only started liking hummus about a year ago….around the time I started liking tomatoes actually (huh…note to self: look into whether I was struck by lightning or abducted by aliens a year ago), but before that I was rabidly anti-hummus. I don’t know why I had such a hate on for hummus, it just seemed like a good thing to do, mostly because it’s made of peas. Chick peas. And I found chick peas really offensive. Garbanzo beans, too. Either way. Super offensive. This really perplexed Lauren, who loves hummus (and rightly so, really, because it’s fucking awesome), and she gave me the hardest time about it, forever, for years. And I was like, Lauren, come on, it’s made from chick peas. I should also note that I’d never actually eaten a chick pea in my life, but I was totally positive I wouldn’t like them. Chick. Peas. Dis-goddamn-gusting. So Lauren made me a bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you love chick peas!,” which I then drew a big red circle around with an X over it and hung it on my wall at work lest anyone be confused about how I felt about chick peas. Chick peas. Gross. Then one day a year or so ago I woke up and someone offered me some hummus and the aliens in my body decided the right thing to do was eat it and like it and I’ve been eating it, oh, almost every day since.
Hummus, in. Baba ghanoush…in, if hummus isn’t available. But why wouldn’t hummus be available? Seriously. What are you doing with my hummus? Give it back to me, give it…
Dishes 2 and 3: Eggplant Manicotti, Grilled Eggplant
So naysayers were all over Facebook, the blog and e-mail this week, talking about how bitter and awful eggplant is, how hard it is to cook with, how it’s everyone’s least favorite, etc, etc, etc. Some friends did offer some really yummy sounding recipes with lots of fried, cheesy goodness to mask eggplant’s taste, but these A) seemed defeat the purpose of tasting and enjoying the vegetable and B) were way too hard to cook. However, one recipe popped up that sounded both cheesy and easy to cook–eggplant manicotti. Yes, I’ll take it.
It turns out cooking with eggplant is not that difficult, it just takes some time. Time, of course, is the one thing I don’t care to spare when I’m cooking (hot and fast, hot and fast), so eggplant may not be the best vegetable for me to cook, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still eat it and like it. We sliced and salted the eggplant and then let it sit for a while before working with it; this cuts down on the bitter taste everyone yammered on about all week. Hours and hours and hours later (or a few minutes), when the salt had worked its magic, we decorated some eggplant for the grill (with balsamic vinegar? Oil? Some green herb-ish stuff for sure…we should have talked about what all was happening over there, but I was busy with cheese for the manicotti, and frankly, it was cheese, so…..), and I rolled ricotta cheese into long strips of eggplant, which we then baked with sauce and more cheese.
Once all the eggplant was grilled and baked and on the table we chowed down. Eggplant manicotti…not altogether super totally different from regular manicotti. I wouldn’t go so far as to try to trick you into believing it’s the same, like a vegetarian would, but neither would I turn my nose up at it. But the grilled eggplant interested me most because I felt like it was my best opportunity this week to actually taste it, get a feel for the texture, understand what it is that people are talking about when they say they love it or hate it, and I liked it. I didn’t love it or hate it, but I liked it well enough to win it. Fucking finally, yo.