006: Eggplant


Eggplant! Eggplant! Pow! Eggplant is wonderful. One of my favorite vegetables. Popular in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine,  its main role is for texture. It absorbs flavor well and cooks down to a mush. At the right doneness it holds together but comes apart in the mouth like custard.
My family took another trip to the Marin Farmer’s Market, and I picked out a bunch of fun types of eggplant and produce for this menu. Chinese eggplant, purple and white finger-shaped eggplant, tiny lime-sized Indian eggplant, a bundle of red yard-long beans, yellow pluots, black mission figs, and star thistle honey.

The Menu (Serves 4)
Grilled Eggplant and Black Mission Fig Salad
Chicken and Eggplant Waffle with Long Bean and Eggplant Stir Fry
Pluot Panna Cotta

I chose to do eggplant this week because of a Facebook conversation I had with my friend Alana. I asked what my next ingredient should be, and she suggested eggplant. I liked the idea and in approval I mistyped “eggoplant!” After a few jokes about eggplant waffles we concluded it would actually be pretty interesting. I wanted to make eggplant waffles as soon as possible, and so here’s eggplant, on week 6 of Butternut.

Pluot Panna Cotta

This is a gelatin dessert, and needs to set. Do this first.

-4 cups heavy cream (or half-and-half)
-1/2 cup sugar
-2t vanilla extract
-2 packets powdered gelatin
-6 tablespoons cold water
-5 pluots
-1.5T powdered sugar

When I made this, I tried to cut the recipe down by 25%, which was a pretty unwieldy fraction and probably hurt how the panna cotta came out.
Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Oil eight ramekins or custard dishes.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the gelatin and cold water, and let it stand 5 to 10 minutes. Mix the warm cream with the gelatin base, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Divide the panna cotta mixture into the eight dishes, and put them in the fridge to set.
10 minutes before dinner, cut two of the pluots into thin slices. Pit the other three, chop them roughly and throw them in a small food processor with a little water and the powdered sugar. Fan out slices on top of each panna cotta. Serve the puree in a dish or pitcher as a sauce.

Grilled Eggplant and Black Mission Fig Salad
4 black mission figs
-6 Indian eggplant
-4 servings arugula/spring mix
-1/4 cup golden raisins
3 oz chevre
-1/4 cup walnut pieces
Dressing
-1.5T white wine vinegar
-1.5T red wine vinegar
-2T Honey
-½c olive oil
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-salt and pepper to taste

Oil a grill pan or stovetop grill, or fire up the barbecue if you like wasting charcoal. Cut the stems of the eggplant off, and cut them in half. When the grill is hot, place them cut-side down and brush the skin with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Let them cook until brown starts to creep up from the face, then turn them over and let the other side grill a bit. Once the eggplant has nice grill marks and is feeling soft, remove it from the grill and turn off the heat.

Cut the figs lengthwise along the stem, and place them on the grill face-down. Leave them on the grill for a couple minutes; don’t let them cook too long! Just get them hot and charred on the bottom.
Put the arugula, raisins, walnuts, and chevre in a bowl and mix it well. Whisk together the dressing. Dress the salad very lightly. Distribute the salad into four bowls, put three slices of eggplant and two slices of fig on each bowl, and drizzle with more dressing.

Chicken and Eggplant Waffle with Long Bean and Eggplant Stir Fry

Waffle
-1 packet yeast
-1 cup warm water
-1/2t sugar
-3c flour
-1/2t salt
-1/2 pepper
-1 1/4c milk
-1/2c (1 stick) melted butter
-3 eggs, separated
-2t curry powder
-1/2t cumin
-1 medium eggplant
-1/2 pound chicken
-1t soy sauce
-1/4t sesame oil
-2 cloves garlic
-1T ginger

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the half teaspoon of sugar and let it foam up. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in the yeast, milk, butter, curry powder, cumin and egg yolks. In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites with a mixer until they fluff up. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Mince the garlic and ginger, dice the eggplant and chicken. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan, and throw the garlic and ginger in. When it gets fragrant, put in the chicken. The pieces will be stuck together, but with a little time and nudging, they’ll separate. Add the eggplant. Let it saute for a little bit, then add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Once the eggplant is cooked soft, and the chicken is done (just test a piece- it’ll cook fast.), mix it into the waffle batter.

Stir Fry
-1 bunch yard long beans
-1 small onion
-2 cloves garlic
-3 thin white eggplant
-5 thin purple eggplant
-1 yellow pepper
-1 green pepper

Mince the garlic. Cut the onion in half, peel the skin off, and cut into Chinese-style wedges. Cut the eggplant into thick disks. Cut the beans into 2-inch-long sticks. Halve and core the peppers, then cut into strips.
Heat oil in the pan from before. Put in the garlic and onions, and sprinkle with salt. When the onions are softened, add the beans and eggplant. Taste test; once the beans are tender but crisp, add the peppers. Cook until slightly softened. You can add soy sauce or whatever here. I didn’t keep track of what I was doing, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t use soy sauce and it turned out really flavorful.
Heat the oven to 200. Turn on the waffle iron. I never really figured out how much batter you need, but just make sure there’s enough to fill up the pattern. Cook four waffles, placing them on a sheet in the oven to keep them warm while the others cook.
Plate a serving of the stir fry, and place the waffle on top. I have a waffle iron that makes 5 hearts so I made a fun arrangement!

Report

Yeah!! Eggplant waffle! It totally worked. The waffle was delicious. It was super great. It also paired well with the stir fry as a starch base. All the stuff in the batter didn’t get in the way at all; the waffles cooked right and everything. While I just planned for the waffle to be cut up and eaten with the stir fry, people tended to use the sections like a taco shell or mu shu wrap. Which was good too, though they didn’t hold so much.
The salad was actually even better. While I was really delighted at the waffle turning out well, the salad was ridiculous. It had a bunch of great stuff in it, so it’s not surprising. I used some of the special honey I bought in the dressing, the figs were incredible, the eggplant had a bite to it but then yielded nicely. So, so good. Creamy and sweet and just a little salty.

I didn’t like the panna cotta. A lot went wrong; I didn’t use full cream, and might have used too much gelatin because of my maybe-not-well-divided gelatin packets. I also didn’t oil the ramekins. So, what I ended up with was rather flavorless milk jello that we couldn’t get out onto a plate. It just didn’t present well.  I wanted to use the pluots somehow, and keep them at least somewhat whole, so panna cotta seemed like a good choice, since its flavor is so subtle. But as you can see, very little of the pluots actually stayed whole. The rest were ground up and enhanced with sugar. I kind of panicked here. It was a decent finish, just because the dairy and cold gelatin sucked up the lingering flavors of the waffle dish, but definitely a disappointment overall.
In the photo of the waffle, there’s little drops of sauce on it. What I wanted to do was make a salty/sweet/spicy “syrup” to pour over the waffle. What happened instead was I used WAY too much soy sauce (in fact I basically made a soy sauce reduction, with some honey [thankfully just Trader Joe’s honey], sriracha and lemon juice) and reduced it too far so it didn’t pour well. I should really have figured this part of the recipe out beforehand. A sweet chili sauce would have been good. The waffle didn’t NEED sauce, but it would have been better. And it would have completed the image to have a little pitcher of syrup! I also would have cooked the waffles a bit longer, because they ended up a little softer than I wanted once they were served.

I loved this one. Despite the failed dessert, the salad and waffle were a one-two punch of really well-executed dishes. Totally awesome. I’m still really pleased about the waffle. Make it!

Next Week: Broccoli

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3 Comments

  1. Ari

     /  July 3, 2012

    Aww, you used the cute eggplant!

    Reply
  2. Julie

     /  July 6, 2012

    The salad was amazing! The waffle had a nice curry taste and also would have been good with the ingredients on top. In any case, the meal was interesting and delicious.

    Reply
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