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Mindful : October 2014
October 2014 mindful 31 Eggplant season runs from July to October, so I wanted to make sure I feature them in my column before the ha rvest season ends. Eggpla nts should be ava ilable at your local farmers’ market now. I use the variety widely available in my area—the large, purple, oval Italian eggplants—I think they are they are the most common in North America. These eggplants should have deep purple, unblemished skins but not be too polished. I like to buy orga nic—a nd I’m a bit suspicious when they're really big—often they have less flavor. Choose only those with green unwithered tops, as this is an indicator of freshness. Of course in France, we call them aubergines. I recently discovered that in Turkey, they are considered the king of vegetables. And although many people are aware that they are members of the nightshade family (that includes peppers Enjoy Versatile, Healthy Eggplant and tomatoes), I find it helpful to know that they are not actually a vegetable but a fruit, specifically a berry. Knowing this helps me to remember that eggpla nts need to be ha ndled like fragile berries— they bruise easily and last only a few days in the fridge. So handle them with loving care and cook them while they’re fresh. Eggplant has a subtle, yet distinctive flavor and texture. It’s a combination of smooth, creamy, fleshy and a little smoky. It’s these elements that make it the perfect ingredient for so many delicious Mediterranean dishes such as Eggpla nt Parmegiana (from Italy), or Moussaka (from Greece), or one of my all-time favorites using roasted eggplants, Baba Ganoush (from the Middle East). I’m passing along my best recipe for this clas- sic dish with a wonderful, garlicky flavor. This dish seems harder than it really is, only because it requires a little time in the kitchen. I like to dress it up with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds but you can also use chopped fresh cilantro. I usually ser ve it with fresh pita bread but you can also ser ve it with pita chips. These are easy to make. Use a pizza cutter to cut fresh pita breads—try a stack of four at a time—cutting them into sixteenths. Place the pieces on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix together about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch each of salt, pepper, and hot, smoky paprika. Then, dip a pastry brush in the oil mixture and brush it lightly over the fresh pita. Place in a 375̊ oven for about five to eight minutes or until golden. The chips are light and flaky. The other dish I want to share with you is a true family favorite: Stuffed Eggpla nts. This dish targets most of the senses—the colors of the finished dish are gorgeous, the smell is divine, a nd the fla- vors are incredible. It’s tomato-crea my, yet nutty with the addition of walnuts and brown rice, the aromatic herb blend is amazing, and it’s totally enhanced by the topping of salty, melted feta. All you need to add is a side salad and you have a healthy and delicious meal to warm up a cool fall night. As I always say, food is love, and here is my latest offering. I hope you enjoy it. A votre santé et bon appétit! ● Serves 6 as an appetizer 3 medium Italian* eggplants (about 1 pound 10 ounces; 730 g) 2–3 tbsp olive oil 2–3 tbsp tahini paste 1–2 tbsp lemon juice 1 garlic clove, crushed 2 tbsp chopped parsley 1 tbsp chopped mint Sea salt and black pepper Dash of smoked paprika 1⁄4 cup pomegranate seeds * They are smaller in size than regular eggplants Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place eggplants on baking sheet and poke with a fork to make small holes. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn, and continue to roast, turning every 20 minutes, for about 1 hour. Remove and cool. Peel while they are still warm and scoop out flesh and place in colander—discard skins. Let the flesh drain, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer eggplant flesh to a bowl and mash finely. Stir in olive oil, tahini, and lemon juice. Season to taste with garlic, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper. Add a dash of paprika and pomegranate seeds. Serve with pita wedges or chips. Baba Ganoush Resident foodie and mindful eating advocate, Béatrice Peltre thinks the regal eggplant is the perfect foundation for Mediterranean cuisine. Recipes, food styling, photographs, and narrative by Béatrice Peltre. Find more of her work at latartinegourmande.com. mindful eating