Menu of the week August 25th Eggplant, the King of Vegetables!

It’s eggplant this week!  Here is some very important eggplant information directly from wiki:

the perfect white eggplant

The eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum. It bears a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. As a night-shade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato and is native to India and Sri Lanka (no wonder I like it so much, I love tomatoes and potatoes).

The name eggplant developed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada because the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs. The name aubergine in British English developed based on the French aubergine (as derived from Catalan albergínia, from Arabic al-badinjan, from Persian badin-gan, from Sanskrit vatin-ganah). In Indian and South African English, the fruit is known as a “brinjal.” Aubergine and brinjal, with their distinctive br-jn or brn-jl aspects, derive from Arabic and Sanskrit. In the caribbean Trinidad, it also goes by the Latin derivative “melongen”.

The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. Salting and then rinsing the sliced eggplant (known as “degorging”) can soften and remove much of the bitterness. Some modern varieties do not need this treatment, as they are less bitter. The eggplant is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, allowing for very rich dishes, but the salting process will reduce the amount of oil absorbed. The fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato, the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible, so that the eggplant need not be peeled.

The eggplant is used in cuisines from Japan to Spain. It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana, the Greek moussaka, and Middle-Eastern and South Asian dishes. It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so that the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients such as lemon, tahini, and garlic, as in the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanoush and the similar Greek dish melitzanosalata or the Indian dishes of Baigan Bhartha or Gojju. It can be sliced, battered, and deep-fried, then served with various sauces which may be based on yoghurt, tahini, or tamarind. Grilled and mashed eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, and spices makes the Indian dish baingan ka bhartha. The eggplant can also be stuffed with meat, rice, or other fillings and then baked. In the Caucasus, for example, it is fried and stuffed with walnut paste to make nigvziani badrijani.

As a native plant, it is widely used in Indian cuisine, for example in sambhar, chutney, curries, and achaar. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the ‘King of Vegetables’. In one dish, Brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala and then cooked in oil.

It can block the formation of free radicals, help control cholesterol levels and is also a source of folic acid and potassium.

So as we can see, eggplant is very old, widely used in many cultures and has some health benefits, as most vegetables tend to have.  Plus, it tastes great!  This week on Jamie at Home, Jamie is making eggplant pickles, how perfect!

I grew a couple of different varieties of eggplant in my garden this summer and if I am lucky they will be ready to eat by October!  They are slow growing this year.  As you can see:

the eggplant corner with tiny eggplants

Menu of the week: Eggplant

The only problem I have with eggplant is that my boyfriend refuses to eat it and finds it every time I try to hide it.  So, I will compromise on some of the dishes, leaving half of it eggplant free or cook a side dish for him.

Saturday: Mexican

Tacos al Pastor (marinated pork based on a recipe by Rick Bayless), garden salsa, guacamole, refried beans and Mexican rice

Sunday: All American grill out

Friends over for grass fed bacon, green chile, cheese burgers on the grill, new potatoes (from the farm) sauteed with garlic, dill and parsley, homemade bourbon baked beans and cucumber dill salad.

Monday: Indian (working late and Indian cooking is quick!)  Must also prepare lunch potluck item for Tuesday.

Eggplant Masala (gutti Vankaya), coconut fish curry, brinjal pickle, and lemon rice.

Tuesday: Greek

Moussaka with grass fed beef, eggplant (only on half), garden tomatoes and a bechamel sauce to top it off.

Wednesday: Italian Tex Mex

Eggplant rollatini based on recipes from Mario Batali and Giada De Laurentiis.  Some grilled chicken sausages on the side for my sweetie and a nice green salad. I need to use the leftover Tex Mex cheese dip I made for the potluck, so I will be using it as stuffing for blue corn enchiladas with a red or green chile sauce – depending on how many green chiles are ready to be picked in the garden.  I will have to post this dip as it is great and a little different.  Plus, I didn’t really think about eggplant in my menu for 5 nights in a row, need a break (but I still love eggplant).

Thursday: Mid Eastern

Baba ghanoush, shish kabobs with grass fed beef and veggies, minted rice pilaf, and lemon tahini sauce

Friday: Thai

Pork Pad Ped with little green eggplants, zucchini, pork, basil, and red chiles (based on my local Thai restaurants version)

i’m out

Here are some great menus for this week’s gluten free menu swap:

Karen of Gluten Free Sox Fan has one of my favorites planned: Blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions.  She is also going to attempt to make moussaka and hide the eggplant from her eggplant fearing hubby.  My advice (although it didn’t work when I tried it) is to mince the eggplant so the flavor is there but not the large visible rounds.   Band practice will not be allowed to interfere with good cooking I am happy to see, but we will have to wait to see what she comes up with for Thursday.

Kim of Gluten Free is Life Is going to both PF Changs and Cheeseburger in Paradise this week!  I am jealous as our local Cheeseburger in Paradise closed.  She has filet mignon and ribs on the menu in between, sounds like grilling weather in her neck of the woods.

Manda of Asparagus Thin claims her menu is a bit lack luster, I do not agree!  I don’t know what Indian shutko is, but since I love Indian food, I am looking forward to finding out. Manda is on the move this week leaving the big city of Philly for Phil’s arms in Concord.  Eggplant will be featured in her Italian night.

Kate of Gluten Free Gobsmacked It’s Kate’s first week back at school and she needs a stress free week and pozole is a great Mexican comfort food to incorporate.  I hope you post your version for the rest of us to drool over!  The salmon chowder sounds great too, cool season cooking is just around the corner.

Sea of Book of Yum Sea is starting the week by busting out her baba ganoush recipe.  Reading her Mexican menu and Indian menu makes me wish I lived closer!  Have fun and delish dining in the Pacific NW for Labor Day weekend!  I bet she will be heading to the Hawthorne Fish House for some GF fish and chips.

Rachel of All She Is has yet another guy that we all cook for who does not like eggplant, but she doesn’t care for it either.  Her menu features breakfast, lunch and dinner – I am not so organized as that!  Rachel is dining on lots of enchiladas (who doesn’t love those?) and is also making salmon chowder! 

Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness I could barely get past the picture of the cashew chocolate tart to read on to the menu!  Cheryl like me, tries to use her garden veggies as much as possible and tomatoes are ripe in her corner of the world too.  They will be featured in her tomato soup with caramelized onions.  She also has an Indian night with chaat masala and pappadams – two of my favorite things!  Peppers are ripe in her garden too and are the key ingredient for next week’s menu, which Cheryl is hosting.  She is attempting roasted eggplant after a long hiatus so give her some aubergine encouragement!

M-Elle of Cooking and Uncooking has never had eggplant before and is bravely trying it this week.  I am sure she will love it and be able to add to her dip repertoire. The ginger almond nori rolls have me intrigued, but of course I like anything with ginger.  Stay tuned for her TBA eggplant dish on Friday.

Kimberly of Living Free is going with menu unplanning this week as she is feeling a bit overwhelmed, so stop by and cheer her up!

Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl is secretly posting her GF menus on her frugal site Heart of a Servant.  I love using waffles for sandwiches too!

Sally of Aprovechar has been adding whole grains and greens to her breakfasts.  One of my fav’s, beans and greens, is on her dinner menu as well as a tasty sounding tomato basil pasta dish.  Sally is a locavore, as I try to be.  I hope those tropical depressions don’t hurt the local harvests!  Gluten Free buckwheat noodles will be in her Asian Noodle Slaw – if anyone knows where I can get those and what brand, do tell!

Angela of Angela’s Kitchen joins us and has her whole week planned, not just her menu.  The French dip sounds terrific, as does the apricot glazed porkloin and avocado BLTs. Happy 13th to her son!

Kay of Gluten Free Kay offers a recipe for stuffed eggplant that she cooked earlier this month.  Skip the butter and this recipe is easily vegan as well as GF, corn and soy free.

Esther of The Lilac Kitchen might make yet another moussaka dish, if she can find some aubergines.  She is having gammon, eggs and potatoes one day and I sure hope she tells us what sort of British treat gammon is.  She sees some baking in her future with a gift of apples, mummm, fall and apples.  I can almost smell an apple pie.

This is great!  I don’t think we have had 15 menus to swap with in a while.  I am happy to see such love for the eggplant!

one tiny purple unfocused eggplant

It’s never too late to submit your menu, so send them this way!  Either leave a comment or email me at celticjig1 at yahoo (dot) com.

Happy eating!

Stuffed grape leaves, Tabbouli and more..

stuffed grape leaves, tatziki,  gf tabbouli, feta salad and grilled chicken kabobs

I get cravings for not just an ingredient, but an ethnicity, as you can probably tell. I hadn’t made any stuffed grape leaves in almost 2 years and found myself wondering why, as they are not hard to make and are very satisfying to eat. So, I put them on the menu along with Feta Olive salad, GF tabbouleh, tatziki and chicken kabobs. Fresh, lemony and zingy.
Oh, we made hummus too, but that didn’t turn out so well. I know hummus is really hard to mess up! And trust me, it wasn’t us. It was the can. I bought a different brand of chickpeas. These almost clanked against the side of the can when you shake them. That’s right folks, my chickpeas were only half cooked in the can. Other friends have had the same problem with this local brand, but it was in the cupboard so we tried to use them. You cannot use partially cooked chickpeas and get a creamy smooth hummus, but you can get a crunchy one. Think on crunchy peanut butter – yep, like that. Not sure what it would do to my innards, I quickly gave up on eating it with the carrots I had set out and just ate the carrots.


For the tabbouli, I attempted to use whole oats and took them for a whirl in the spice mill. It didn’t work as planned. Since bulgur wheat is parboiled, dried, de-branned and then cracked, I am not sure how to best mimic this. The cracked raw oats worked for day one’s salad, but turned too soft for day two leftovers. Regardless, it tastes great without the grain. Until I figure it out, I will just be making it with no fake bulgur.

Bulgurless Tabbouli: Tabbouli is basically a parsley salad with loads of fresh lemon juice.

One large bunch of parsley – some finely chopped some more coarsely
Juice of one lemon, or more, maybe two lemons
Green onions probably about 3 or 4 for one bunch of parsley, sliced, greens included
1 med fresh tomato diced or in the off tomato season, use cherry tomatoes cut in 1/4s
Allspice, freshly ground if possible, 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste, but it should have a bit of a salty tang
freshly ground pepper 1/4 tsp
Olive Oil, just enough to coat unless you want more.

I can see that I need to really start keeping track of measurements if you are to have any hope of figuring out a recipe that I post. I have been cooking for so long and never measured that I really don’t think about it, I taste as I go.

Stuffed Grape leaves (based on an old Lebanese recipe)

Grape leaves (I use the jarred kind)

1 cup rice

1 lb ground beef or lamb

1 Tbs salt

3/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp garlic powder (I like garlic in most things)

1 tsp pepper

1 cup of lemon juice and save the lemon rinds

Mix the rice, meat, spices and salt together. Drain your grape leaves and put a big pot on the stove. Place a few grape leaves on a cutting board and place about 1 to 1.5 Tbs of the rice/meat mixture on each grape leaf and form the mixture into a log shape. Then roll the grape leaf up like a spring roll or burrito. Continue until all of the mixture has been used up. You will have a lot of grape leaves left. Take your lemon rinds and cut them into 1/4s or 1/8s (assuming that you cut your lemon in half to squeeze the juice out). Place the lemon rinds on the bottom of the pot. Cover with extra grape leaves to form a blanket on top of the lemons. Start placing your uncooked grape leaf rolls on the grape leafs in the pot, jam them in and make sure each layer is tightly in there. A criss cross pattern works nicely. Place some more grape leaves on top and then place an heavy inverted plate on top to weight them down while cooking. Now pour your 1 cup of lemon juice into the pot and then fill the pot with enough water to reach to the plate. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes or so until the rice is tender. These are great hot or cold and they freeze really well, so as long as you are doing this and you know you like stuffed grape leaves, just make a double batch (it will still fit in the pot) as it really isn’t any more work to double this recipe and what do you do with leftover grape leaves in a jar?

i’m out