What to do with that eggplant…

Eggplants to give away…

We have an abundance of eggplant in our garden right now and were trying to give some away. But most of our friends ask us what they are supposed to do with eggplant, which they apparently don’t usually purchase in the grocery store. So, for our friends, and others who might be offered bounty from a friend’s garden this time of year, here are some suggestions for what to do with that big, purple beauty.

The easiest thing to do with an eggplant is probably to peel it, cut it into smallish cubes, boil it with some salt until soft, and strain it. You could add your cooked eggplant to a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, casserole or soup….

About that peel. I like the peel, and I know our eggplants have no pesticide residue on them, so for my remaining suggestions, I don’t peel the eggplant, but you might prefer to peel yours. Just use a sharp knife. It’s a simple task.

My favorite thing to do is fry the eggplant. I slice the whole eggplant in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. When my kids were little and we were living in Vallejo, we dropped them off sometimes with Molly, whose Italian mother lived with her and had sewn costumes for Sly Stone, but that’s another story. Molly used to “sweat” her eggplant slices, by laying them out and sprinkling a little course sea salt over them. After about an hour the slices had “beads of sweat.” After that she would knock the salt off and blot the water with a kitchen towel. I have done the same thing ever since I learned that from her. It is the Italian way to prepare eggplant for frying.

Put the sliced eggplant in a bowl with a couple eggs and a little coconut milk. Then drop them in your favorite fry mix. The traditional Italian way would be a little flour and bread crumbs. I like to make a mixture of flour, bread crumbs, corn meal and a little parmesan cheese. Then fry your eggplant slices for a couple minutes on either side, until golden. You could just eat your fried eggplant right now. 

Or you could lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze them and then package them. You could take them out of the freezer and put them directly in the oven for an easy way to add a vegetable to your meal at a future date. 

Or you could take your fresh or frozen fried eggplant slices and make an eggplant parmesan, or eggplant casserole. There are lots of recipes online for a traditional eggplant parmesan. My family tells me that I never make anything the same way twice. What follows is one of my hybrid eggplant dishes that is pretty quick to finish after the eggplant slices are fried.

Martha’s Hybrid Eggplant Parmesan

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants, sliced and fried

3 pints of spaghetti sauce

3/4 cous cous

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice

1 package uncured turkey bacon, cooked or

1 package ground turkey, browned and seasoned to taste

DIRECTIONS

Pour the uncooked cous cous Into a 13″x16″ baking dish. 

Pour one pint of tomato sauce in with the cous cous. 

Put a layer of eggplant slices over the cous cous. 

Spread 1 cup of the cheese over the eggplant. 

Spread the bacon or the ground turkey evenly over the cheese. 

Pour a pint of tomato sauce over the meat. 

Spread the remaining slices of eggplant over the top. 

Spread the remaining sauce over the eggplant and the remaining cheese over the sauce. 

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. 

Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving or a couple hours before freezing.

Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake

Sweet, Moist, Lemony

Bertha was my husband’s mother. Like me, she moved to Greenville with her husband. She was originally from up north, possibly New York City. She was half Cherokee and half descended from African slaves in America, but she never spoke much about her life before coming to Greenville and raising her eight children. According to her husband she was a kitchen mechanic. He would sometimes sell her pies in the neighborhood. According to my husband, she didn’t use measuring cups or spoons to make any of the many treats he so fondly remembers. But his favorite was her pound cake. I got the recipe for Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake from my niece, and have made it many times now. In spite of it being winter, we are getting about a dozen eggs a day. One way to use up eggs is to make this cake that calls for no less than seven. So last week I made a pound cake.

Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake Recipe

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups), room temp.
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 7 eggs, room temp.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 1 cup milk, room temp.

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Gathering Grapes

In summer’s past we had a concord grape vine that offered us many gallons of grapes. We had enough for me to make a couple batches of jelly and also to can some quarts of grape juice. We liked the homemade (and organic) grape juice so much that we planted a few more grape vines. They are still babies, and unfortunately our original vine (that we brought with us seven years ago from California) finally died over the winter. This week I gathered together two and a half pounds of concord grapes, but I needed four for jelly, according to the recipe on the liquid pectin box.

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Grape juice, sugar and a teaspoon of pectin just before boiling point.

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Preserving Okra

Yesterday I fried okra in peanut oil. I had three gallon bags of sliced okra in the refrigerator. I put all that in a large bowl, broke a couple of eggs over it, then stirred it up. In another bowl I made a mix of flour and corn meal with a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. I drop about five large spoonfuls at a time of the okra into the fry mix and then put them in a strainer to get rid of the excess mix (so that it doesn’t all wind up in the bottom of my fry pot.)

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Eggplant Season

We have a lot of eggplants coming in from the garden right now. I have two ways that I prepare eggplant and am contemplating a third. I fry the slices or I make my own version of eggplant parmesan (which also involves frying the eggplant ahead of time.) Either way I prep the sliced eggplant first by sprinkling sea salt over the slices and letting them sweat for an hour two. I learned that from Molly, an Italian woman who used to watch my boys when they were very young and we were living in California.

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I acquired this waffle iron at an estate sale. It has removable cast iron plates.
The bright yellow of crook neck squash is inviting on a cold, grey winter evening.

Food and Sunshine

Sometimes the color of food is as appealing to me as the smell. The bright yellow of crook neck squash is inviting on a cold, grey winter evening. There was a lot of yellow crookneck squash this past summer, which I sliced raw and froze in vacuum sealed bags. Retrieving a bag from the freezer is a little like retrieving a bit of a summer afternoon to infuse into dinner.

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Yoghurt for the new year

After the delicous treats of the holiday season, I am usually ready for a little abstinence to begin the new year. I don’t drink milk because it gives me digestive troubles, but yoghurt actually assists my digestion. Yoghurt insures that you live a cultured (and regular)  life! I eat it with bananas or other treats, and also use it in recipes in place of buttermilk, (because I make the yoghurt myself and keep it around and I figure as long as it’s cultured it’s good…)

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Yoghurt is easy to make, and I like to make it myself. It’s not really any cheaper than buying it ready made, but it’s less wasteful, since we avoid consuming lots of little plastic cups full of yoghurt. Another thing is that I buy the unpasteurized organic milk at the Farmers Market. (If you let unpasteurized milk sit around too long and go bad, you can still use it to make farmer’s cheese. If it’s pasteurized, you can only toss it.) I get the creamy whole milk, because I like it. No skim or non fat around here folks. If the yoghurt sits around in the fridge for about a week, it develops a little layer of cream at the top.

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Pizza from Scratch in an Hour

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When I have lots of little containers of leftovers in my refrigerator, I think about making pizza. I knead the dough in my KitchenAid in about five minutes. You could also use the dough cycle on a bread machine or a food processor. If you knead it by hand, you’ll need an extra ten or fifteen minutes and you’ll get a little good arm exercise. Using yeast and making dough didn’t come easy to me for some reason. When my friend came to visit and I wanted to make some fresh bread, my thermometer was broken and I killed my yeast and failed. Now I don’t even use a thermometer. If your liquid is hot like bath water, that’s about right. Sometimes the dough has been too thin and hard to handle. One time I had to fold my pizza dough in two, it had gotten so stretchy. It’s incidents like that make my husband call me Lucy, for Lucille Ball. Adding a little flour can help, but don’t get too carried away in the other direction. Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone. They probably won’t notice, or they’ll tell you that it was the best crust you ever made yet…
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