To be fair, neither do eggplants, the subject of today’s post. They grow on delicate, surprisingly tall stems (up to 7 feet, in the wild!) similar to those of their closest cousins, tomatoes and potatoes (they’re all members of Solanaceae the deadly nightshade family!), but “blank doesn’t grow on stems” doesn’t quite have the same ring, now does it?
Known to most of the rest of the English speaking world as aubergine, the eggplant is one of those vegetables that I feel like most people feel strongly about one way or another, mostly because they only eat it prepared one way – battered, fried, and smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. (Clarifying note – this largely applies to folks here in the US. In the Middle East and Mediterranean this is far from the first thing you’d do to an eggplant.) Eggplant Parmesan is very, very tasty, but in addition to the fact that it packs a caloric wallop, I feel like it’s designed to hide the taste of the eggplant entirely. This is a shame, because eggplant is a very tasty vegetable. There’s a slight bitterness to it, but cooked properly this fades away into an enjoyable tang, and you’ve never had another vegetable, not even potatoes, that has the ability to become so creamy with just a bit of cooking. Perhaps this is why the other way I usually see eggplant prepared is in baba ganoush!
I recently picked up an eggplant from the Farmer’s Market and knew that I didn’t want to make any of my usual preparations, so I flipped through Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for inspiration. His recipe for sauteed eggplant seemed promising – fast (it was an after work dinner and I was hungry!), relatively healthy (eggplant is a notorious oil sponge, so sauteeing it requires a fair amount, but Bittman has you cook this until it releases quite a bit back out) and tasty – the recipe promised silky-smooth results. As I pondered what to eat it with, I noticed that one of the variations was for eggplant and greens. Perfect – I’d also bought beets at the Farmer’s Market, and this presented me with the opportunity to use the super-nutritious tops!
You start by cubing the eggplant and putting it into a pan over medium heat with a 1/3 cup of olive oil and about a tablespoon of minced garlic.
Stir constantly for 5-10 minutes until the eggplant starts to release the oil.
Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
After another 5 minutes, add the greens.
Cook another ten minutes or so – if you have more delicate greens, add another 5 minutes to the time before you add them. In the last 5 minutes add a bit more garlic and salt to taste.
The result looks a bit inelegant (and smells strongly of beet tops!) but the taste is fantastic:
The eggplant was as promised – smooth and creamy and downright sweet, and contrasted beautifully with the still-firm beet greens and their earthiness. The garlic added just enough zip, for me, but you could make it spicier if you like. You can also add a bit of parmesan – without it, this recipe is totally vegan!
Do you have any favorite eggplant recipes?