Archived entries for eggplant

The stomach wants what the stomach wants: Moroccan-style couscous and eggplant salad

I’m a big believer in listening to your body, and this includes acquiescing from time to time when it starts screaming at you with a craving. Want a cookie? Eat a cookie. Want stinky cheese? Eat stinky cheese. Want liver? Well, you know.

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My reasoning is twofold:

  1. If you give in when your body makes its wants known,  it’s a lot easier to eat just a bit of whatever you’re craving. This is because your body sees through all your spindly lies, and if you try to satisfy it with something else (like a rice cake) it will stage a rebellion that will probably end with the consumption of an entire wheel of brie. (Not that I would know anything about that ahem.) Your body is not stupid. It will get what it wants eventually, so it’s easier to give in a little at the outset, before it gets pissed off.  Note: This is the only weight management tip you will ever hear out of me.
  2. I generally find that when your body really starts screaming for something, it probably means that you are in desperate need of some vital nutrient. It’s why I, a woman who hasn’t eaten red meat in 13 years, occasionally crave raw steak–a craving I quell with a whole lot of spinach and an iron supplement.

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Of course, neither part of this theory goes anywhere to explain the relationship I’ve had with eggplant this summer. As flora goes, it’s pretty low on the nutritional totem pole, and yet I have been craving it like a madwoman since about June, and showing no restraint whatsoever. What was initially intended to be a tide-stemming taste has turned into a full-blown mania, and I have no idea why.

I mean, other than the fact that it’s delicious. Obviously.

So anyway, I’ve spent a good chunk of the summer coming up with new and exciting ways to play with eggplant, and what I have here is one of the best–and easiest. Eggplant, chickpeas, couscous, onion. That’s pretty much it. It’s spicy, it’s delicious, and it’s simple. Great for picnics, too (my other obsession of this summer). It’s slightly time-consuming, as there’s a lot of things that need roasting, but actual effort is pretty minimal, and the return well outweighs the inconvenience.

…Which I guess makes a third reason to give into cravings when you have them–sometimes you’ll stumble across something pretty damn delicious.

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Quicker than Takeout: Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

I have this little conversation with myself on a weekly, or at least biweekly basis. It goes more or less like this:

Me: Self, you really should cook something. There’s been too much delivery food. And what about Pithy and Cleaver?
Self: I know, I know. [Insert excuses here.] And I don’t have the time or energy to make something interesting enough for Pithy and Cleaver.
Me: Isn’t that missing the point? Don’t we all need recipes for real food that we can throw together when we’ve run out of steam?


This is barely a recipe. But it’s good, satisfying food for nights when you can barely summon the strength to reach into the pantry. And it’s vegetarian. If you have homemade sauce in the freezer, this is a wonderful use for it. Or stir together Marcella Hazan’s classic quick recipe. But if all you can manage is pulling out a jar of your favorite brand, I won’t judge you. I was checking out Eataly, the new Italian food emporium that just opened in NYC, and picked up a good looking jar of Ponti Arrabbiata sauce. Not too many ingredients and totally passable, tastewise. Even better was the stracciatella “di Burrata” we picked up–luscious mozzarella curds mixed with rich, sweet cream, perfect for piling on a baguette or um, eating with a spoon.

I wanted to make an easy unfried spin on eggplant parmesan featuring this ridiculous gooey cheese, so I sliced up some farmers’ market eggplant and doused it in olive oil before throwing the slices on the grill. It’s important to cook them well, until they get a little charred outside and creamy inside. If you take the eggplant off too soon, you’ll get dry sponges instead of silky melting mouthfuls. When the eggplant’s good and cooked, pile it on a plate with some warmed up tomato sauce and a healthy dollop of the cheese. If you can’t get stracciatella or burrata (which is stracciatella wrapped in a mozzarella skin), you could make this with good fresh mozzarella or a pile of creamy ricotta. Dab each bite of eggplant with sauce and cheese and devour.

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Roast Eggplant and Chickpea Salad

Perhaps our diet has been lacking, perhaps I’m over the braises and stews of winter, perhaps it’s the slow way spring is toying with us, but all I want for dinner lately is a really good salad.

I’m not talking just cold greens. Main-course salads have been good to me lately–big bowls of refreshing, bright, clean flavors that no takeout can really satisfy. I could live on taco salad, steakhouse iceberg saladsquash panzanella, and I haven’t even gotten around to a giant duck salad yet this year.

This weekend’s iteration was a keeper: spinach and cucumbers tossed with a garlicky goat-cheese dressing, with piles of crispy, Moroccan-spiced chickpeas and silky, rich slices of eggplant. Depending how long you cook them, the chickpeas are almost like spiced nuts: rich, crispy, snackable. Take them out of the oven a little earlier if you prefer them soft.

You could add a dollop of hummus to the top of this salad if you wanted, or even some chunks of lamb, but that might be overkill. A garnish of mint and parsley wouldn’t hurt. In summer, this dish will be all the easier with the use of a grill; just slather each eggplant slice with oil and herbs and throw them on, turning once.

Of course, in summer, I’ll be all tomatoes all the time.

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Ratatatatatouille!

It’s getting to be about that time again. That magical point in the winter where I start to champ at the bit in readiness for spring, where the prospect of being further lost in the wasteland of kale and turnips makes me want to commit ritual hara kiri. I want sunshine on my skin! I want to wear dresses! I want to stop living on cheese! (I know. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But there it is.)

Or, failing all of that, I at least want to eat a vegetable with some freaking color in it. I know, I know. Irresponsible Shiv, with her carbon footprint the size of the Superdome. But…I mean…sometimes in the deep midwinter, you just need a damn tomato. Vitamins, people! Vitamins and cheer!

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And it was with that chipper attitude that I approached dinner on Sunday night. I was freshly back from New Orleans, and really excited to rattle around in my kitchen; I was also, however, utterly exhausted, more than a little shell-shocked, and didn’t want to rattle around the kitchen for TOO long. I was also completely depressed by the gray and unforgiving state in which I found my home city upon my return (New York in February: No.), and needed some color; conveniently, Bench (having fended for himself all week) was also in the mood for something colorful and healthy. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we decided to make something that was not only completely veg-tastic, but is a breath of pure summer in the bleak midwinter–and something I’ve been dying to make for a while.

Ratatouille.

Say it out loud. It can’t decide if it wants to pop or sashay. Glorious!

Also delicious, and simple, and quick. At its most basic, ratatouille is a french vegetable stew–tomatoes, squash, and other wonderful things sauteed and then simmered with a few sprigs of thyme. You don’t cook it long, because you want the vegetables to retain their personality;  you want it on the stove just long enough to perfume your house and chase away some winter blues.

We made ours with tomatoes, yellow squash, orange bell peppers, and (against Bench’s initial judgment) eggplant, and it was a knockout. The eggplant became silky and seductive, the peppers smoky and sweet. The thyme infused the whole business with a simple elegance and an absolutely irresistible smell. It was, in short…exactly what the doctor ordered. Warm, simple, sweet, savory, and full of sunshine.

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Healthier Party Food: Eggplant Agrodolce with Pinenuts

When we throw a party, we like to start early. Happy-hour-style drinks mean we can enjoy our balcony (a rarity in Manhattan) with friends while the sun is still out. The problem, though, is that starting a party early means folks won’t necessarily have eaten dinner. As the night goes on, having plenty of good food to offer is essential. People don’t actually want to make a meal of brie and crackers.

That’s where this sweet and sour Eggplant Agrodolce comes in. I’ve learned over the years that I become a stressed, panicky mess if I leave too much party prep to the last minute. I need recipes that can be prepared the night before and tossed onto the table as guests arrive. I make a variety of easy spreads and dips, and a killer garlicky white-bean bruschetta, but I was drawn to this recipe from Andrew Carmellini’s gorgeous Urban Italian because it’s a little more substantial and fresh-tasting. It’s vegetarian, and pretty healthy, and totally works as a make-ahead dish (though I did microwave it for a minute to take the chill off before serving.)

I used regular eggplants, not the lovely slender Japanese sort, because a person can only go to so many grocery stores before a party, and I’d already hit my limit. Carmellini  warns that this is a dangerous swap, and suggests salting them in a colander for half an hour, but I simply removed the ends (which can be bitter) and skipped the salting. It worked out fine. I’ve actually read that salting can adversely affect the egpplant’s texture, so if you’re using fresh eggplants, I’d skip it…

I also scattered a handful of toasted pine nuts over the eggplant before serving. The earthy nuts balance the sweet-and-sour sauce, grounding the tangy flavor a bit. Be sure to cut the eggplant small if you’re intending this as finger food—large slices are a little intimidating to party guests, especially if they have a glass of wine in hand. Continue reading…



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