22 August 2011

The Eggplant Fainted

A couple of years ago, I got a copy of that Simon Hopkinson book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, because everyone was going on and on about it. And though I've tried to understand the fuss, I just don't get it. There's no magic in the writing for me, and there's a certain superciliousness that doesn't belong in the kitchen. I like my cookbook writers to be people I want to just hang out with, like Julia Child and Nigel Slater and Deb Perelman. (Someday I'm going to run into Deb at the Union Square Market, and then I'll be all tongue-tied or something, but I really like her cooking sensibilities. And Nigel Slater? She Curmugeon and I are planning to stalk him together. Julia? Nothing needs be said.)

Anyway, I pick up the Roast Chicken book from time to time, hoping for clarity, and finally, I've found one thing in it that maybe makes it all worth it: an eggplant salad - a spiced eggplant stew-like salad to be precise. Hopkinson says it's from Elizabeth David, but I can't find it in any of the eight (8!) Elizabeth David cookbooks I have. (I know, what's the matter with me? Five are in a Penguin boxed set that I got at the library book sale because I just couldn't resist. And of those five I already had two, so would you like a copy of Italian Food or French Country Cooking? Tell me in the comments, and I'll send 'em out.)

The closest thing I found in Elizabeth David is her version of imam bayaldi - the seasonings and ingredients are almost the same, but she stuffs the eggplant and bakes it, unlike Hopkinson's rendition where the vegetables are all cooked on the stovetop. I liked the Hopkinson version enormously. It reminds me a bit of caponata, with an exotic hit from cumin and allspice. Eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow with a blob of thick Greek yogurt on the side. Oh, and save the cilantro for sprinkling on at the table if you have one of those "cilantro tastes like soap" people in your household.

Spiced Eggplant Salad, adapted from Simon Hopkinson, who got it from Elizabeth David

  • 1 large eggplant
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground allspice
  • 1/4 t. cayenne
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 T. currants
  • 2 T. chopped fresh mint
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes; place in a colander and sprinkle with 2 t.salt. Mix together with your hands and leave to drain (in the sink or on a towel) for 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan and saute the onions until golden. Add the tomatoes and spices. Stew for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir in the garlic and take off the heat. Stir in the currants.
  3. Shake the colander to release some of the moisture from the eggplant, and then dump the eggplant onto a clean dishtowel and blot it dry. Heat up the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a big frying pan - to smoking hot - and stir-fry the eggplant until it's golden on all sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture, and add the fresh herbs. Transfer it to a bowl, and set aside to cool. Adjust the seasoning to taste.


thordora said...

Would love the french one if u don't mind shipping to NB..just ordered an Italian One (http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Spoon-Phaidon-Press/dp/0714845310/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314037375&sr=8-1) so I don't need Italian :D

Kelly said...

Italia! I'd love David's Italian cookbook. I don't stick to my culinary roots as often as I should.

Jodi Pharo said...

yum! that salad sounds good. if i'm not careful i'm going to end up actually cooking.

S said...

Sigh. I do love me some eggplant.

She Curmudgeon said...

: ) Will you still stalk Nigel with me if I tell you I'm awfully fond of Mr. Hopkinson?

I particularly like his desserts, his custards and creme caramels and chocolates (though I make them rarely now that I've lost my taste for sweets)-- and while I think I get what you mean by his prose, it doesn't bother me like Steingarten's does.

His supercilousness-- oy. I find him amusing the first two chapters and then I just feel like shouting "shut up!" at the book. So I set it aside.

But Nigel. Yes, Nigel.

I keep looking at the glossy new Elizabeth David at work and telling myself I don't need it because I have all the books, including BOTH versions of Mediterranean Food. Maybe it's in the earlier one? (I don't know the years off the top of my head but it went through several revisions, methinks... maybe that's where it comes from?)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I'm a Bittman fan, myself.

This sounds delicious! No one in my family will eat eggplant, so I'll save it for some night when I'm home alone.... Ha! Ha ha ha! OK, some night the family will get mac & cheese & I'll make this for me.