Friday, September 30, 2005
An Eggplant Dish.....
Eggplant....I love eggplant, but it has to be carefully prepared otherwise it tastes like nothing. This is a recipe that my mother gave me, there are many different names for this dish my mother called it "Padlezsån"
Buy 2 good size eggplants.
2 large head of garlic.
Roast the garlic
Cut off the top half inch or so and trim the root end only if it needs cleaning. But do not detach the cloves. Put the head in a small ovenproof dish or pan with about 1/4 of an inch of water or a presoaked ceramic garlic roaster. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the garlic. Place the pan in the center of a 500°F (260°C) oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes.
Roast the Eggplants.
Let them cool off, then peel or squeeze the garlic from the peel. Scoup the eggplant with a spoon, carefully so you don't get the roasted peel in there.
Mush the garlic and oil mixture set aside.
Now chop or mush the eggplant, it is very important not to put in a food processor because you don't want a paste you are looking for mush. I usually put it on my bamboo cutting board and take my biggest knife and start chopping. It does not take much.
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Factoids: The eggplant is a member of the potato family, and it is known worldwide as aubergine, eggplant, brinjal, melanzana, garden egg, and patlican. It is available year-round, with the peak season during the months of August and September.
PURCHASING: First look for shine, you want the eggplant that is shiny, the stem is green and has not turned dark and dried out. As with all vegetables the fresher the better.
Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Full-size puffy ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter. Choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that is heavy for its size; avoid those with soft or brown spots. Gently push with your thumb or forefinger. If the flesh gives slightly but then bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation remains, it is overripe and the insides will be mushy. If there is no give, the eggplant was picked too early. Also make sure an eggplant isn't dry inside, knock on it with your knuckles. If you hear a hollow sound, don't buy it.
Garlic: You are looking for weight, and nice big sections. You want your garlic juicy, more juice the more it weighs. I was at the market one day and saw this older Persian lady picking out garlic. Up to this point I thought that garlic was garlic, never really paid much attention to which head of garlic was better than others. I see her taking a head of garlic in each hand and kind of moving each up and down as if she was a human pendulum scale. Right side down, left side up, left side up, right side down. Up down...then pick another and repeated.
Naturally I ask what are you doing? "I want to pick the best garlic here" Oh how do you know which is the best? "I want the one that weighs the most. Then it's full of juice and the juicier the better." So since then I have been repeating the human pendulum method of picking garlic.
STORING: Eggplants are very perishable and become bitter with age. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a day or two of purchase.
To store in the refrigerator, place in a plastic bag. If you plan to cook it the same day you buy it, leave it out at room temperature.
PREPARING: When young, the skin of most eggplants are edible; older eggplants should be peeled. since the flesh discolors rapidly, an eggplant should be cut just before using.
There are many varieties which range from dark purple to pale mauve, and from yellow to white. The longer purple variety is the most commonly eaten. It is one of the more popular vegetables in the world, and it is a staple of Italian cooking throughout Italy. For hundreds of years, it was grown only in Sicily and southern Italy.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Pressure cooking... in Paris....
When I was visiting a friend in Paris we would take her two French Poodles for a walk around dinner time. As we walked in her neighborhood in Clamart, besides the smell of food I would hear this "shishing" noise. Wondering what that was, it was the sound of pressure cookers steaming. My girlfriend explained that the French women hate microwave ovens so they use pressure cookers because they have busy lives and don't have time to cook.
Then we would get home and her husband would whip up a delicious dinner in 15 or 20 minutes! Pressure Cooker! Wow! So as soon as I got home I marched off to my local Bed Bath and Beyond and bought one. This is the brand I got: http://www.healthgoods.com/Shopping/Appliances/Fagor_Splendid_Pressure_Cooker.asp
The one I got had two pots one 10qt and a 4qt with one pressure lid and one glass lid. I paid around 69 dollars (I thought a good deal) I find this combination very handy when I want to make more than one dish. I have loved everything I've made and including vegetables. The key to vegetables is not to cook too long. I actually just bring it up to the first "shish" and turn it off pour cold water on the lid and open it.
With meat I usually check every 5 minutes, opening the lid and stirring or turning if it's a roast and judging how long more to cook. A roast cooks up in about 15 minutes and 2 more minutes after I add the vegetables, It has been sort of trial and error. Most of the recipes I found were not exact either, it depends what cut of meat etc. But over all I really like it a lot.