Aubergines, or eggplants (sorry, I like the French term better, but it sounds a little more sophisticated) are a wonderful addition to your diet, especially in summer, when they can grow outside in large numbers. No matter if you grow them yourself, or buy them from a farmer’s market or a supermarket even, there are wonderful things you can create using them – reaching far beyond just simply grilling them over hot coal for the garden party.
The first one is a traditional Greek recipe I learned during my first holiday in Halkidiki, one of the most wonderful islands I have ever visited. The dish is called Moussaka, which is prepared in a series of Balcanic countries. It is a dish made of layers of aubergines, tomatoes and meat, topped with a wonderful Béchamel sauce and baked in an oven. To prepare it, you will need some aubergines sliced and sautéed in olive oil, topped with a mixture of minced meat (traditionally lamb, but you can use beef and pork if you like) lightly cooked with puréed tomatoes, spices, onions and garlic, covered in another layer of aubergines and topped with a white sauce. Bake it for about 45 minutes or one hour at 380 degrees, which leaves you enough time to clean up the kitchen. Serve it while it’s still hot.
The second dish I have learned during a brief visit to Romania. They call it “aubergine salad”, although it consists of puréed aubergines. First, they bake the aubergines on the gas stove or over charcoal (this gives it a wonderful smoked flavor) until they are completely soft, then peel them, chop them into a purée with a specific wooden tool (but I have tried to use my hand blender, and it works like a charm), add some grated onions, salt and lemon juice, and you are done. Some like to prepare this dish with the addition of homemade mayonnaise – it makes it even more creamy.
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Serve the aubergine salad on toast, with some fresh tomatoes for the maximum effect.
The third dish I like to prepare at home (as it is simple and filling) is Imam Bayildi, something a Turkish friend cooked for me once. It is basically an oven-baked, stuffed aubergine perfect for vegetarians. You need to prepare something like a “tomato stew” (not purée!), using onions, garlic, parsley and mint (add at the end), with salt and pepper to taste. In the meantime you cut an aubergine in half lengthwise, cut into its flesh also lengthwise, and fry it in oil until golden brown. Then remove from oil, drain, fill the slits with the “tomato stew” described above, sprinkle some lemon juice and sugar on their top and bake them in the oven until tender (approximately 40 to 45 minutes).