Archives for posts with tag: eggplant

There’s a cafeteria-type restaurant that I frequent because it has the best mutabbal (similar to baba ghanoush) ever.  It’s a Toronto-based Middle Eastern chain and I love it.  My husband grew up in the Middle East and it reminds him of his childhood, eating fresh and puffy pita breads out of the oven with some juicy chicken shawarma right off the spit.  I have to agree the vibe in there transports you to the Middle East.  I have been to Dubai a few times and have a lot of friends from Dubai here in Toronto and the consensus is the same — it’s the Middle East in Toronto!

My sister-in-law came to see me for a day over the summer (she lives in a small town, with no Middle Eastern food), we had lunch at a nice restaurant and shopped for a bit.  After we were done shopping she asked if I was hungry.  I’m always ready to eat, so then she suggested going to the Middle Eastern restaurant.  I’m sure it was her plan all along!  When my sister visited me it was the same scenario all over again.  We got takeout mutabbal every day of her visit!

I know I could easily buy mutabbal, but to be honest I’m kind of embarrassed going back to the same place so often.  The staff probably think, “This girl is crazy and doesn’t she every get sick of mutabbal?!!”  The answer to that is most definitely NO!  Anyway, to save one trip per week to the restaurant, I decided to start making mutabbal at home.  It’s just as good and easy to make.  But when I need a quick fix I know I can get takeout in 10 minutes.  My version tastes the same because I broil the eggplant for the last few minutes.  It gets a charcoal-y and smokey taste, which I love.  It is even better if you have a gas stove or grill where you can roast the eggplant.  The smokiness is my favorite part along with the crunchy contrast of the beautiful pomegranate seeds.  Do try to make this – don’t say I didn’t warn you when you become ADDICTED!

Mutabbal

adapted from this video

Makes a medium-sized bowl enough for 4 people, as a starter/appetizer

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium-sized eggplant

1 clove garlic

2 heaping tablespoons tahini

2 heaping tablespoons full-fat yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped parsley (I used curly parsley because the flat-leaf was out of stock and I actually liked the texture, even though it seems to be a culinary outcast!)

1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)

salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon of hot paprika, plus extra for sprinkling on top, or to taste

Method

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Poke a few holes in your eggplant with a knife and place on a baking tray.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes and after 30 minutes turn your broiler on and let the eggplant broil for 5-7 minutes.  If you can roast your eggplant on a gas stove or grill – it will be even smokier.

Once the eggplant is cooked, allow it cool so that you can scoop the flesh out.  Discard any extra seeds if your eggplant has a lot of seeds.

Next, make the garlic clove into a paste by sprinkling some salt on the garlic clove and scraping the garlic on a cutting board with a sharp knife at an angle.

Add the garlic to a bowl with the scooped out eggplant flesh.  Mash the eggplant with a potato masher, fork, or pestle until it starts to become smooth.  Next add in the tahini, yogurt, and lemon juice.  Keep mashing until the mixture becomes smoother.  Add in salt, pepper, paprika, half the parsley, and half the olive oil.  Stir until the mixture is well-combined.

Place the mutabbal onto a deep plate and top with the pomegranate arils, parsley, a little extra paprika, and olive oil.  Serve with warm pita bread.

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Growing up in Rhode Island, I was introduced to a large Italian-American community.  The one that calls pasta sauce, gravy and manicotti is manigot.  Federal Hill in Providence is the hub for this community and they serve up great culinary delights.  I would not call the food authentic Italian but definitely as Italian-American as you can get.  I love Venda Ravioli, where you can get great cheeses, olives, and fresh pastas.

On twitter, Amy from Poor Girl Gourmet, mentioned that she was making Chicken Parmesan for dinner.  I love Chicken Parmesan and I was thinking about making Eggplant Parmesan for quite some time.  This twitter conversation reminded me of  how Rhode Islanders call a sub sandwich a grinder, or more accurately, grindaaa.  These local colloquialisms make up a big part of growing up in Rhode Island.  My sister and I can go on and on for hours in our fake Rhode Island accents (somehow we did not pick them up).  We banter back and forth, “Yo, Tony!”  This drives my husband mad.  We just get into a zone and forget about who is around us.

On the topic of Eggplant Parmesan, this has always been one of my favorite foods.  It is so versatile as well.  You can have it in a calzone, on top of pizza, in a “grinda,” or on its own.  My version is full of herbs and is not too far a departure from the original.  I bread and fry eggplant rounds till golden and delicious.  Who does not love fried eggplant?  Then, I layer it with herbed ricotta, marinara sauce, and provolone cheese.  I top it all off with Parmigiano Reggiano and bake it in the oven.  The result is a bubbling and gooey dish that no one can resist.

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1/4″ rounds

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

any combination of fresh herbs you like, I used oregano, rosemary, thyme, and parsley (for the breading and eggs)

oil for frying

2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (preferably homemade)

1/2 cup provolone cheese, grated

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part-skim, not that it really made a difference)

salt, to taste (extra for leaching water out of the eggplant)

black pepper, to taste

crushed red chilies, to taste

Method

Lay the eggplant rounds on a tray and cover liberally with salt.  Allow the excess moisture to come out of the eggplant, about 30 minutes.  Then rinse away all the salt and pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, make the ricotta mixture by whipping the ricotta with salt and pepper.  After the eggplant is dried, in one plate add the breadcrumbs and a handful of the mixed herbs, salt, and pepper.  In other plate, combine the beaten eggs with some mixed herbs, salt, and crushed red chilies.  Dip the eggplant rounds in the egg first then into the breadcrumbs.  Heat up a frying pan on medium heat with enough oil for a pan-fry.  Fry the eggplant on both sides until cooked through.  Drain off the excess oil on a plate lines with paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium-sized baking dish, add a little marinara sauce to the bottom of the dish and then lay down the eggplant slices, then the marinara, dollop the ricotta cheese on top of the marinara (about 1 cup), then the next layer of eggplant.  Continue this until the layers reach the top, it should be 2 layers.  Top off with any extra marinara sauce/ricotta and the provolone and Parmigiano Reggiano.  I sprinkled a little parsley on top as well.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and light golden.  Allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Eggplant on FoodistaEggplant