By Kim Dannies
Certain vegetables have reputations for being very naughty girls, when, in fact, they’re only guilty of consorting with the wrong kind of (cooking) crowd. Case in point: eggplant, the Lily Bart of the food world. While raised to be a good and proper vegetable, gossip- mongers perpetuate the notion that she’s a leech, or even worse, a full-blown oil sucker. These rumors have taken root only because cooks have consistently mistreated her. They blindly follow traditional recipes that call for one to two cups of olive oil as a standard way of preparation. It’s turned eggplant into a social pariah, a calorie-loaded burden that no one wants to be seen with.
Another vicious rumor about elegant eggplant is that she’s fussy, that she needs to sit salted for hours before cooking, or she will behave bitterly. This is simply not true. Eggplant is sweet and well mannered and full of character. Buy a mid-sized, firm-fleshed beauty, cook it sooner rather than later, and you will have no problem with the lady.
It’s time society stood up for beautiful, healthful, delicious eggplant. The simple truth is that one good sized eggplant can be coated in 1-2 tablespoons of oil (via a gallon zip lock bag) and she will comport herself just as well as one soaked in cups of hot oil. Eggplant thrives on being invited to dine: roast, stew, even fry her, but please – kindly quit maligning her.
Seared Tuna & Eggplant
Peel and cube a medium sized eggplant and toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a hot non-stick sauté pan add 1 medium chopped onion and 2 sliced celery stalks; sauté for 10 minutes, drizzling in a small amount of oil if needed. Add the eggplant and sear, turning, for 2 minutes. Add 2-cups of crushed tomato, 3-minced garlic cloves, 1- tablespoon capers, 3-tablespoons chopped olives, 3-minced anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1-tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1-teaspoon sugar. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. Grill tuna steaks to desired temperature, top with plenty of the sauce. Serves 6.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.