I blame the ubiquitous sandwich shop offering for vegetarians, “roasted fall vegetable wrap, coated with gobs of salad oil and not a droplet of originality” (fine, I’ve embellished that last part), for the fact that until two years ago I ate not a lick of eggplant. That, and eggplant parmesan, but my rant about melted cheese-coated things – and my husband’s baffled expression when he learned of this blasphemy – for another time.
Eggplant was grey, flat, dull, mushy, and jumped from undercooked to overcooked so rapidly, you’d need a compass and a jewelers loupe to locate its fleeting tasteful moment. I lacked both, as did apparently everyone who had every tried to change my beliefs about the mighty aubergine, that is everyone except the woman who was to become my mother-in-law.
Her eggplant caviar is like a shot of espresso for the tastebuds with copious amounts vinegar, garlic and salt stealing the show, while the eggplant hangs out in the background, keeping it real. It is both nutty and neutral and full of substance, and that’s the kind of eggplant I can get really along with.
Which brings us to this evening’s recipes yanked from Food & Wine’s feature on London-based cookbook author Celia Brooks Brown new book, World Vegetarian Classics. The thought of mixing charred eggplant with chiles and lime, avocado and tomatoes has gotten stuck in my head since I first saw the recipe two weeks ago. While I was at it, I threw down her lemony spaghetti with yogurt cream, spinach, parmesan and hot peppers.
I won’t even pretend I followed either of these recipes to the letter, but the gesture was there. I also won’t pretend I fell in love with either dish, but I’m difficult like that and you, like this guy I ate dinner with, might like it enough to go for seconds. I can assure you, however, that the eggplant is anything but feeble, sort of like a twice removed Thai/Turkish cousin of eggplant caviar. Also, tasty.