(Haaretz) — Growing up in Israel, it’s natural for me to love eggplants. So much, that I almost take it personally when I hear (all too often) my American friends saying it’s their least favorite vegetable.
In my opinion, there are two common mistakes with dealing with eggplants that prevent people from revealing their true deliciousness. First, the classic, purple-black large eggplants tend be bitter, especially when they are filled with seeds. To avoid this you need to treat the eggplants before cooking. It’s easy to do. Simply slice the eggplants as needed for your recipe, put in a colander over a large bowl and sprinkle every layer with a generous amount of kosher salt. Let stand for at least thirty minutes, wash with water, dry with paper towels and you’re ready to go. Another method it to soak the eggplant in salted water, but you need to take into consideration that the eggplant will absorb the water, which may not work well for your recipe.
The other common unforgivable mistake, one that I see everywhere, is not cooking the eggplant all the way, leaving the vegetable a little raw. A fully cooked (or fried, or grilled) eggplant should show no resistance to the touch. If it does, it’s not ready yet, and it would be like serving half raw potatoes. Terrible. No wonder so many people are turned off.
But when eggplants are done right, they’re outstanding. The flesh becomes almost sweet. Just try this simple Iraqi breakfast staple: Peel one regular eggplant, slice to 1/3 inch slices, put in a colander with salt (as described above), let stand for half an hour, wash and dry. Heat corn oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat and fry the eggplant slices patiently until they’re golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined tray (to absorb the oil) and eat. It’s best on a slice of challah with nothing else.
Eggplant and yogurt is a classic refreshing combination. Here in a cold yogurt soup spiced with ginger and in a dip with labneh (sour yogurt cheese) and pomegranate molasses.
Cold eggplant, yogurt and ginger soup
1 large eggplant
1 teaspoons grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons rice or cherry vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt to taste
3 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup labneh (yogurt cheese) or more of the Greek yogurt
2 cups kefir or buttermilk
Juice of 1½ lemons
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and sliced (optional)
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Peel eggplant and cut to 1-inch cubes. Put in a colander, sprinkle with kosher salt, let stand for 30 minutes and wash with water. Steam in a colander placed in a pot with 2 inches of boiling water over medium-low heat, covered with lid, for 30 minutes until soft.
Transfer eggplant to food processor, add ginger, garlic, vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and mix to a chunky consistency. Add salt to taste. Keep aside.
In a large bowl mix yogurt, labneh and kefir. Add juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt to taste. Divide between 6 soup bowls.
Spoon the eggplant in the center of each soup bowl, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with Serrano, green onion and cilantro. Serve cold.