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Sundae in the Park
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Hey all,

I am a devoted eggplant-eater, but not so much the eggplant-cooker. Anybody have tasty ideas about transforming the humble eggplant into a glorious dish? All recipes and hints are welcome, but I am especially interested in learning how to make a foolproof bangain bharta. I've spent enough $ on that particular dish at our fine Indian eateries that I want to at least have the option of making it at home. I have tried a few times to make it using various recipes (they all seem to be similar), with little success, even after the addition of extra butter. Anybody know how to make it taste like it does in the restaurants???

Thanks!!!

Sundae

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I am a devoted eggplant-eater, but not so much the eggplant-cooker. Anybody have tasty ideas about transforming the humble eggplant into a glorious dish? All recipes and hints are welcome, but I am especially interested in learning how to make a foolproof bangain bharta.
Sorry, I can't help you with Indian dishes (Monica Bhide, where ARE you?), but my go-to eggplant dish is Marcella Hazan's "Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic and Parmesan" from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I serve it with pasta and a tomato sauce. Good eats, particularly if you are eschewing meat.
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Just tonight I made eggplant roasted two ways- both spritzed w/ garlic infused olive oil. 425 then 375 degree oven. Upper rack, in roasting pan: garlic powder, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper. Bottom rack, sliced thin, cooked till crisp like chips: cumin, curry powder mix, salt, pepper. Wait for the bottom one to smoke a bit, brown in the middle. Yum.

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Sorry, I can't help you with Indian dishes (Monica Bhide, where ARE you?), but my go-to eggplant dish is Marcella Hazan's "Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic and Parmesan" from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Thanks, this sounds great! I've got the book on hold at my library and I can't wait to try it out.

Pat - that is a massive index of eggplant recipes!! Have you got any particular favorites? I'm especially looking for recipes that have already been tried and can be vouched for by folks I trust...like the Rockwellians!

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Just tonight I made eggplant roasted two ways- both spritzed w/ garlic infused olive oil. 425 then 375 degree oven. Upper rack, in roasting pan: garlic powder, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper. Bottom rack, sliced thin, cooked till crisp like chips: cumin, curry powder mix, salt, pepper. Wait for the bottom one to smoke a bit, brown in the middle. Yum.

I've made a preparation similar to your upper rack eggplant and it turns out great. I've also tried something similar to your "eggplant chips," but mine turned out sort of dried and bitter. I did not salt the slices before roasting - was that my mistake? Or did I let them go too long? I'd like to try them again and get them right.

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I adore eggplant. I had been searching without success for a particular recipe, certainly one of the best things I ate last year, possibly ever.

Franci, an Italian with formal culinary training introduced a number of us to the dish. She's from a small town in Puglia, a southern region known for the wonderful things families do with the vegetables they grow. However, she belongs to a number of Italian forums where she's developed a broad knowledge of dishes from other parts of the country.

Here's the link to the recipe: Post 195. Scroll down to Post 207 by Shaya who made the dish. Basically, you cook the largest tube-like dried pasta you can find to fill with a mixture of sautéed eggplant and bechamel. The dish is then baked under a blanket of tomato sauce and cheese. Fabulous for vegetarians. (I also recommend not using smoked cheese.)

In the Italian recipe (translated here), the paccheri are the big tubular pasta; fior di latte is fresh mozzarella; passata is a simple tomato sauce made with puréed tomatoes or ones passed through a food mill so they're sort of the smooth, uniform consistency of Hunt's tomato sauce. You can find help in converting grams to US standard weights online, but since I own a kitchen scale, I never bothered to convert the weight to volume.

(Link repaired.)

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I've made a preparation similar to your upper rack eggplant and it turns out great. I've also tried something similar to your "eggplant chips," but mine turned out sort of dried and bitter. I did not salt the slices before roasting - was that my mistake? Or did I let them go too long? I'd like to try them again and get them right.

Salt before roasting definitely! I think this helps draw out the moisture from the eggplant. Also I'd go for the lower rack- I tried to "reroast" the chips last night to make them a bit crispier, on the upper rack, resulting in that bitter, dried, burnt taste. Lower rack, watch for some smokiness, which is really the steam from moisture being pulled out.

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I made an eggplant dish for a Middle-Eastern dinner last night--see my post today in the dinner thread for the full menu. There are many eggplant recipes in _The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean_ by Paula Wolfert. The one I used was called "An Arabian Stew of Chickpeas, Eggplant, and Tomatoes." I rarely follow recipes slavishly, except when baking, and this was no exception. The recipe called for frying the eggplant. Sorry, I had roasted the eggplant the day before. And I used canned chickpeas, since I hadn't soaked any dried ones the night before. I used a bit less garlic, since my husband has been complaining that some of the M-E dishes I have made recently have had too much garlic in them. I added some roasted sweet red pepper and bay leaf (which are in PW's "Macedonian Chickpeas, Eggplant and Tomatoes" recipe). There is a little bit of sugar and some red wine vinegar and lemon juice in it, making it vaguely sweet-sour, and some allspice and cinnamon. The pot simmered on top of the stove for a couple of hours, while everything else was being prepared, and I turned it off and eventually served it at room temperature, along with the other dishes. It was really, really good. Great depth of flavor. And pretty simple, after all, since I didn't salt or fry the eggplant, just scraped the pulp from the skin, and used canned chickpeas and canned San Marzano tomatoes.

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Salt before roasting definitely! I think this helps draw out the moisture from the eggplant.

In college, I worked a summer in a NY-style red-sauce Italian kitchen. For the eggplant parmigiana and other eggplant dishes, we would first skin the eggplant. Then we'd cut them to 1/2" thick slices. Lay them out on a cookie sheet. Salt the hell out of them. Put down some wax paper, then another layer. We'd go about 5-6 layers high. Then lay another cookie sheet on top, and then like 40 phone books.

After 20 minutes, we'd have to mop up the gallons of water that the eggplant sweated out. But the resulting dishes were so tender...

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This evening I was practicing my Chinese cooking skills, which are at a very rudimentary level indeed. I also had a single Asian eggplant in the fridge and wanted to use it. I found a recipe in an old Chinese cookbook for "sweet and sour eggplant," made it, and it was the hit of the meal. It was simplicity itself. Just chunk up the eggplant into serving cubes (I didn't bother to peel), and steam them for about 1/2 hour. No salt soak. Then pour over a mixture of chopped garlic, sesame oil, vinegar (I used 2/3 Chinese "Chinkiang" and 1/3 plain distilled), sugar, and salt. Serve. Great.

1 Asian eggplant, maybe 1 lb. Cut lengthwise then cut into serving pieces. Steam for 1/2 hour or until softened.

Blend 1 tsp salt, one garlic clove chopped, 3/4 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar. Mix into eggplant. Serve.

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I made an eggplant dish for a Middle-Eastern dinner last night--see my post today in the dinner thread for the full menu. There are many eggplant recipes in _The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean_ by Paula Wolfert.
Many of the recipes in this book are very time-consuming, but I LOVE it. It's good to turn to if you're in a rut (cf. Heather's new thread).

I recommend one eggplant recipe for a variation on eggplant caviar, the appetizer or salad usually made by pricking the whole eggplant, baking it until it collapses, then scooping out and seasoning pulp usually with garlic and lemon along with additional flavors. Wolfert advises you to double wrap the eggplant in heavy-duty alum foil, then place it directly above the flame of a gas burner, turning it every once in a while with tongs. This results in an incredible, but not overwhelming smoky taste.

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Pat - that is a massive index of eggplant recipes!! Have you got any particular favorites? I'm especially looking for recipes that have already been tried and can be vouched for by folks I trust...like the Rockwellians!
I don't always keep such good notes. I'm not sure if I can tell you which recipes specifically came from there.

Digging back through old stuff, I did find this, which was an adaptation of several recipes I came up with for moussaka. I named it my favorite, but I haven't made it in a long time, so take it with a grain of salt :o . (I stopped eating lamb for a few years when I was on a really lowfat diet. I should try this again.)

Pat's Favorite Moussaka

Source: adapted from Shortcut Moussaka, Bon Appetit, Mar. 1992, & other

sources, ca. 1998

(12 Servings)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 pounds ground lamb

1 small onion, chopped

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

3/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, sliced into thin rounds

1 pound russet potatoes, (about 2), peeled

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ground lamb

and chopped onion and cook until lamb is brown, breaking up meat with fork,

about 15 minutes. Mix in tomato sauce, red wine, parsley, crumbled oregano and

ground cinnamon. Simmer until mixture thickens and is almost dry, stirring

occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Can be prepared ahead. Cover tightly and

refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Boil potatoes in large pot of salted water 5 minutes.

Drain. Cool. Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir

1 minute. Gradually add milk, whisking until smooth. Boil until thick,

stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Beat eggs in small bowl to blend. Whisk

small amount of milk mixture into eggs. Return mixture to saucepan. Bring to

boil, whisking constantly. Remove custard from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup grated

Parmesan cheese. Season custard to taste with salt and pepper.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange potato slices in bottom of dish.

Arrange half of eggplant slices over top of potatoes. Season with salt and

pepper. Spread meat mixture over. Top with remaining eggplant. Pour hot

custard cheese sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.

Cover loosely with foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until

golden and bubbling on edges, about 10 minutes longer. Cool 10 more minutes

and serve.

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You guys have got some good ideas - I'll be eating eggplant for a month!

Here's a quick eggplant stir-fry I was addicted to for awhile:

Cube a few pounds of Asian or regular eggplant, soak in salty water for ~10 minutes and drain.

Heat some oil and minced garlic, and stir fry the eggplant with a diced red chile or some hot chili flakes until the vegetable matter is soft and cooked through.

Add a dash of salt and a dash of sugar, some sesame oil, and oyster sauce to taste.

Swirl it all around in the pan until the mixture is incorporated and then serve!

Easy and yum.

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Hey - Just saw this thread. Can I help?

Hi, yes! Any tips on how to make recipes for Indian eggplant dishes taste like their restaurant counterparts? I've tried a few and they always seem to be missing...something. Is it butter or cream? Extra salt? Letting the mixture sit so the flavors can meld? A magic, hidden-from-the-public ingredient? Thanks!!!

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You will have to tell me which dish! The baigan bharta recipe (see above) is pretty authentic and I think you will enjoy it. Most eggplant dishes dont use cream. Do you have a specific dish in mind?

Restaurant food, in my experience, is always different from home cooking but I hope I can help you re-create some favorite dish!

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You will have to tell me which dish! The baigan bharta recipe (see above) is pretty authentic and I think you will enjoy it. Most eggplant dishes dont use cream. Do you have a specific dish in mind?

Restaurant food, in my experience, is always different from home cooking but I hope I can help you re-create some favorite dish!

Baigan bharta has been my bane. Ideally, I want to make mine to taste like the version at Delhi Club (Clarendon). I've tried a bunch of recipes - most of the recipes I looked at seemed to be similar in ingredients and technique. But mine seems to be missing an essential richness and creaminess (maybe I should mash better? I don't think it actually has cream) of both taste and texture, though I have managed to get a smoked flavor by roasting the eggplants longer. I'm going to try your recipe this weekend and report back. Thanks for your help!!!

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Okay, I tried Monica's recipe that was published in the Post. I followed all the instructions to a T, and while it smelled right and tasted better than other versions I've tried to make at home, it was still lacking...something. One thing I could still taste strongly was the eggplant bitterness. I drained a lot of the liquid from the eggplant pulp after the roasting and the mashing (which I did quite thoroughly and I noticed that the texture of my bharta has improved considerably) but the result was still slightly bitter, rather than smoky. Also, there was a certain absence of richness, a missing unctuousness; granted, the layer of grease that I can pour off some restaurant versions is not to be missed, but perhaps they are adding a lot of butter? Maybe my palate for this dish has been ruined for the home-cooked version :o

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Yesterday at Glover Park Whole Foods I noticed some very nice-looking "Italian" or "baby" eggplants (from the Netherlands). Then I noticed their very not-nice-looking price, $5.99 a pound. Then I noticed another sign that said they were on special for $2.99 a pound. So I took a couple, making a mental note to make sure they really rang up as $2.99/lb. Well, the checkout clerk rang them up as ordinary eggplant for $1.69/lb, and I said nothing. Was that wrong?

Anyway, for dinner I sliced one of them on the bias about 1/3 inch thick, dipped the slices in a simple fritter batter (flour, water, an egg), and fried them in peanut oil till they were golden brown and crisp. Tossed with chopped green part of scallion, chopped serrano chile, coriander leaf, and salt. Delicious with roast lamb.

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Okay, I tried Monica's recipe that was published in the Post. I followed all the instructions to a T, and while it smelled right and tasted better than other versions I've tried to make at home, it was still lacking...something. One thing I could still taste strongly was the eggplant bitterness. I drained a lot of the liquid from the eggplant pulp after the roasting and the mashing (which I did quite thoroughly and I noticed that the texture of my bharta has improved considerably) but the result was still slightly bitter, rather than smoky. Also, there was a certain absence of richness, a missing unctuousness; granted, the layer of grease that I can pour off some restaurant versions is not to be missed, but perhaps they are adding a lot of butter? Maybe my palate for this dish has been ruined for the home-cooked version :o

Huh. Day after, the bharta tastes much better. Perhaps some of the sharper aromas have dissipated and the flavors have had time to meld? Maybe all I am missing is a hefty dose of restaurant grease. Ew.

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I ad libbed this dish after having something very similar to it in a non-name taverna just outside Athens. Looks a little gloopy, but makes an excellent side braised lamb shank or any vaguely Mediterranean main course.

Start with about three eggplants and on humungus onion (I told you it was ad-libbed). Pour a fairly thick layer of olive oil in a heavy pot, slice the onions and slow cook them. Chop a couple or six cloves of garlic and throw them in, too. While the onions are softening, thick slice the eggplants into rounds and brown them in a frying pan (does anything absorb more oil than eggplant?) once the onions are soft, cut the browned eggplant into whatever size morsel you find aesthetically pleasing -- quartered, maybe -- and throw it on top, with some salt. Thick dice a couple of fresh tomatoes or smoosh up some whole canned tomatoes and throw them in. The mix should be maybe 60% eggplant, 20% onion and 20% tomato. Don't cook too long, as you want the eggplant to hold some of its shape. It can, however, sit on top of the stove for days before being rewarmed for serving. Just before serving, crumble a good bit of good feta into the stew, and ponder whether you're in the mood for capers or a little bit of lemon. Like so many eggplant dishes, it tastes much better than it looks.

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Okay, I tried Monica's recipe that was published in the Post. I followed all the instructions to a T, and while it smelled right and tasted better than other versions I've tried to make at home, it was still lacking...something. One thing I could still taste strongly was the eggplant bitterness. I drained a lot of the liquid from the eggplant pulp after the roasting and the mashing (which I did quite thoroughly and I noticed that the texture of my bharta has improved considerably) but the result was still slightly bitter, rather than smoky. Also, there was a certain absence of richness, a missing unctuousness; granted, the layer of grease that I can pour off some restaurant versions is not to be missed, but perhaps they are adding a lot of butter?
I don't quite understand if you're looking for something smoky that is missing in your (by now, probably an extremely distorted, fanciful) memory of the restaurant's dish in addition to a richness you somehow equate with butter (or ghee) or if you're equating the smokiness with that elusive richness. In any case, my dear, you are starting to develop just a bit of a whine in these laments :o , so I do suggest either you get thyself to a nunnery gone or you go back to the restaurant at an unfrantic hour, order your dish, sneak in your best version and compare them. Then see if someone in the kitchen might enlighten you further, based on your hunches.

As I mentioned before, Paula Wolfert offers excellent advice for imparting a smoky flavor without grilling eggplant outdoors. Prick your eggplant all over with a fork. Use heavy-duty aluminum foil and double wrap your eggplant tight. This has to be done to individual egs.

Place your silver bundle directly on top of a gas burner (not electric; won't work) and turn the flame on high. Stay in the kitchen to keep it company, turning it with tongs a few times so all sides have been exposed directly to the flame. It's going to take a while. I forgot how long, but less time than it takes to collapse in the oven.

When it does collapse, you remove it from the flame, let it cool a bit and unwrap and proceed from there.

Second, as you learned, eggplant improves over time, so it's always best to prepare this sort of thing a day before you plan to eat it. I suspect what you associate with richness might prove to be a depth of flavor that develops once flavors have a chance to shake hands, mingle and settle in cozy for the night.

As for bitterness, it's sometimes the luck of the draw. You can't blame a recipe or your own skills for the nature of the ingredient you happened to buy. :lol: You can always devote a little time clarifying a stick of butter (making ghee) and after Day Two, try adding some to a little bit of your eggplant dish. Just a little, since I think you'll find it's not the taste of butter you're after.

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Eggplant is perfect this time of year, especially when there's still basil and tomatoes at the market. I thought you might be interested in a recipe attributed to Elisabetta Cuomo, member of Cucina Italiana's cooking forum, as translated by Francesca Spalluto. (Cf. my original post in this thread w link to photograph of the dish.) It is vegetarian and kosher if served as a main course. I've revised the text somewhat, including approximate conversions for metric weights which you should feel free to adjust further, based on preferences. It may sound pretty ordinary, but eggplant-lovers should be surprised by how good it truly is.

While shopping for ingredients, note that Giant now sells the type of dried pasta specified (paccheri) as part of its upscale product line. Le Valle produces excellent canned cherry tomatoes (Balducci, Litteri...); Whole Foods now imported Italian cherry tomatoes, too, if under its own label. Italian plum tomatoes are perfectly fine, too.

Stuffed Pasta with Eggplant
Paccheri Ripieni con le Melanzane (Campania)

300 g (12 oz.) Paccheri (dried pasta resembling wide tubes; sub large shells)
1 kg (2 lbs.) Eggplant
150 g (2/3 c) Fresh mozzarella (or fior di latte; increase if omitting the following:)
200 g (3/4 c) Smoked Provola (VERY optional if you can't stand smoked cheese)
75 g (3/4 c) Grated Parmesan
150 g (2/3 c) Béchamel/White sauce (1 c heavy cream weighs approx. 240 g)*
10 Basil leaves
750 g (1 Â½ #) Cherry tomatoes (or 1 Â½ small cans imported Italian cherry tomatoes)
200 g (3/4 c) Passata (Cooked tomato purée; find Pomi brand or Hunt's tomato sauce)
Olive Oil (you can sub canola or related oil for frying)
Flour
Garlic & Salt to taste

"¢ Cut Â¾ of the eggplant lengthwise in long slices 1 cm (1/3 inch) thick.
"¢ Cut the remaining eggplant into small cubes.

N.B. Eggplants from the farmers' market generally do not require salting, especially smaller, pale ones. However, you may wish to sprinkle kosher salt on the eggplant and put the pieces in a colander to drain while assembling, weighing and preparing the remaining ingredients. Simply rinse and pat the slices dry before proceeding.

"¢ Shake long slices of eggplant in paper bag w flour and a little salt to coat each slice. Shake or brush off excess flour.
"¢ Pour oil in large skillet so it rises at least Â¼ inch up sides. Heat.
"¢ Deep fry the long slices first over medium-high heat, then the cubes, separately, until they're soft and golden. You may need to adjust heat to make sure nothing burns. Shouldn't take more than 3-5 minutes. Use tongs to turn the slices over after 2 minutes. Dry well on paper towels. (You can reuse the oil, just for eggplant, though, if you strain it and pour into a glass jar once it cools sufficiently.)**
"¢ Pulse the cooked eggplant slices (NOT cubes) in food processor with the white sauce and the basil. No machine? Mash eggplant REAL good, using knife first to chop through skin. Then mix w sauce & herb.
"¢ Transfer to a bowl, add the cheeses in very small cubes, the grated Parmesan, and the fried eggplant cubes.
"¢ Cook the pasta 4-5 minutes. Drain & fill it with the eggplant stuffing.
"¢ Make a sauce with the garlic, olive oil, cherry tomatoes and passata. (Chop or mince garlic and add it to pan with olive oil before turning on heat, low, just until it starts to turn golden and smell good. Pour in tomatoes and passata and cook down until all is incorporated and thickened slightly.)
"¢ Pour sauce over the paccheri in oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with a lot of Parmesan and bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes. More basil & grated cheese at time of serving

*Consult any general cookbook or the internet for recipes. Requires whole milk, flour & butter. Cook until the consistency of a light cream soup.
**You could bake the slices, instead, in an oven set at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, as long as you skip the first step and brush their naked flesh w olive oil. Just make sure they're tender and mostly translucent after baking. You also should probably thicken the white sauce a little more than if you were using flour-coated slices of eggplant. Baking a pricked, whole eggplant, on the other hand, will not impart sufficient flavor & probably would be too wet.

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Since it's eggplant season and I have about a pound of skinny little white and purple eggplants still in the fridge from last Sunday, I'm bumping this topic up to see what you all are doing with yours.

Two recipes I made last year that I love are Middle-Eastern and vegetarian:

Eggplant-lentil stew w pomegranate molasses. I could not believe how delicious this was, especially a day after it was made.

Georgian rice salad w eggplants and sour cherries. (Chow[hound] has a number of the local author's recipes.)

I may just go a very simple route, cutting them in half and broiling or roasting them, flesh slathered w olive oil. Then, when still warm, stacking them in a ceramic bowl w slivers of basil, garlic, sprinkled w sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Can always add them to things later. Slip into sandwiches.

New ideas?

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I had some eggplants in Egypt last year, and I got the "recipe" from my friend in Cairo. They use the tiny purple ones, but I think it would work with skinny ones.

Roast the eggplants until tender but not blackened. Make a paste in a mortar and pestle with 10 cloves of garlic, salt, some coriander and cumin, and a bit of red pepper (this is highly variable and to taste). Slit the eggplants and stuff some of the paste into each one. Cover them with sugar cane vinegar (available from Grand Mart), and let them sit at least six hours and preferably overnight. These are served as part of a meze and they are absolutely delicious.

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I love the Ashbury's Aubergines site for all things eggplant.

http://www.aubergines.org/

I'm not sure if any of those Indian recipes match what you'e looking for.

Thanks for this link, Pat. The eggplant plants are about three and a half feet tall and are cranking out the eggplants more quickly than I can think of non-oven-related eggplant ideas. If anyone wants a good variety, try Neon. I taste all vegetables raw before I start cooking, and this one is sweet, even without salting.

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