Friday, January 29, 2010

Being Brave and Posting a Flop

I'm usually too embarassed to post my flops, but I see other bloggers do it and I realize that food blogs mean taking the good with the bad. So I'll provide a story about last night's dinner and even a photo of it.

I have had a weird relationship with eggplant my entire life.

As a kid I hated it in any form. I found it distasteful and slimy. Then one day I deigned to try eggplant parmigiana. That was not so bad. Granted, old sneaker parmigiana syles would probably taste good too. Breaded and fried eggplant was good on pizza with sausage (the same held for calzones). Eggplant rollatini were also quite delicious.

I began to experiment a little. I found out about how salting the eggplant first can drain out the bitter juice and improve the flavor. I began doing this to my eggplants and adding them to pasta. I tried grilling them.

One day I ate a grilled veggie sandwich (one that I hadn't prepared) and I noticed an unpleasant tingle in my mouth. I noticed that subsequent times I would order sandwiches of grilled eggplant. It was the same tingle I get from walnuts. It seemed I was allergic to it. I assumed the people who made the sandwich hadn't salted it and perhaps salting was helping me tolerate them (sort of like boiling walnuts helps keep the tingle down - a trick I learned from We Are Never Full). Around this time I also learned that eggplant doesn't have much nutritional value. Did I really like eggplant enough to keep exeperimenting with it if it's not all that good for me in the first place? No. I don't. It's a vegetable that you have to work hard at making taste better. Perhaps it's better to leave alone.

Over the years I have found that there is one place where eggplant always tastes good and doesn't give me an allergic reaction. That is in Asian cuisines. My favorite local fusion places always seem to put eggplant in their curries and it always has this soft and buttery quality to it. The flavor is just right.

So often when I don't know what to make for dinner, I will just go into the store and browse around until I see something that inspires me. I saw these really pretty purple and white "graffitti" eggplants and suddenly I was dying for some Asian eggplant.

I cooked my eggplant in what I would consider something similar to a green conconut curry. I ran out of red curry paste and considered just buying more, but I find the red curry pastes in a jar are a little hotter than my husband likes to eat. I thought I could replicate a red curry, but had a harder time finding red curry ingredients. I used green chili peppers, cilantro, basil, lemongrass, coriander, garlic, and ginger. I added that to onion, bell pepper, coriander, fish sauce and coconut milk. My kitchen smelled so good while I was prepping this dish. It was hard to believe it couldn't be delicious.

Perhaps I should have found a recipe instead of just trying to make one up. Perhaps I simply don't have the skills of a chef in an Asian restaurant. Whatever the case, I ended up with a rather unappealing looking pan of eggplant. The purple skins lost their color and the coconut milk turned a rather unappealing shade of gray.

The taste wasn't much better. I guess I didn't use enough seasoning because the flavor I wanted didn't come through. My eggplants lacked that rich buttery quality they have in Chinese and Thai restaurants. They were even a little tough in spots.

I added little Asian-y meatballs on top. I had a craving for dumplings, but it was Friday night and I was not in the mood to make dumplings, so I sort of made dumpling filling and added it to my eggplant. They were turkey with scallions, ginger, and soy sauce. I will definitely use these again as they were great.

Lesson learned. Stay away from eggplant.


Sue said...

NO! Don't stay away from it. I spent my whole life salting eggplant and waiting for it to exude its little bitter droplets.

I don't bother with that anymore, I just peel it - even the little ones. I don't know why, because the bitterness is supposed to come from the flesh, but it's good, really good!

Buy a big eggplant, peel it and do whatever you want with it. Plus "they" say the more oval eggplants are less bitter than the va-va-voom rounded ones.

Amedy said...

no I love eggplants its so delicious

Spiele said...

I love eggplants too

The Blonde Duck said...

:( I'm sorry. I think it's brave of you to try something new! Esp. with eggplant. I don't think I've ever eaten it.

CookiePie said...

Thanks for posting a flop -- we all have them, it makes me feel better to read about others', so I don't feel as bad about mine! For what it's worth, your dish looks good to me...

Emily said...

I'm an eggplant lover as well. :/

But I rarely eat it any other way than parmigiana style.

Good job! You did your best! I had a kitchen disaster tonight as well.

The Blonde Duck said...

The Babies had a fabulous b-day!

The Blonde Duck said...

You could do synchronized swimming! That's dancing in the water!

~~louise~~ said...

I've been salting eggplant since a was knee high. Why, I'm not quite sure. Eggplant never agreed with me even as a dish of infamous Eggplant Parmigiana. However, that all changed the very first time I had eggplant prepared by a Turkish friend. Delectably delicious:) I also love it grilled!!!

Thanks for sharing, Rachel. BTW, your "flop" looks a heck of alot better than the Carrot Cake I just posted for Carrot Cake Day. Ug!!!

Lo said...

Can I ask? Did you use big, standard Italian Globe eggplant?

If you did, I'm going to beg you to give it another try... only THIS time, use Japanese eggplant. They're much sweeter, you don't need to salt them, and you shouldn't need to peel them either! They're amazing...

Salting eggplant is great, since it removes some of the moisture (and keeps it from absorbing extra oil). It also removes a bit of the bitterness (but not all -- particularly if the eggplant isn't UBER fresh). The best Italian eggplant I've ever had (and really the only time it's truly good) is when it's ultra fresh -- either from my own garden or the farmer's market. Eggplant that sits for any length of time seems to get more and more bitter by the day.