Tag Archives: Harold McGee

Reach Out and Touch Faith

My own personal Jesus

I got some eggplant, so I fried it.  Naturally.  It wasn’t nearly as good as Elyse’s for two reasons 1) I am not as good as Elyse and 2) This was second time eating fried eggplant and so the world was already in color.  It’s like in Wizard of Oz how exciting it is when they first go from b&w in Kansas to TECHNICOLOR! in Oz.  It’s not exciting when they go back to black and white..you know, were they eventually to go back to color.  I know I don’t make much sense; just roll with it.

This evening, I took one of the tumid purple eggplants, and one of the rangy white ones and fried those suckers up a la Carolyn Galizio.  Namely, I salted & pressed them, then floured, egged, and breadcrumbed them.  Lastly, I put them in a sassy hot pan with a bit of sassy hot olive oil from The Olive Scene in Rocky River. Heavenly!

As yet, frying them is the only thing I know to do with eggplants.  But then again I know how to fry anything.  Although Orlando swears that his people will dip anything into peanut oil and fry them to a golden brown, I hold that my people would find your sunglasses lying out and dip them in pancake batter and then fry them to a golden brown (cf. Indiana State Fair).  But I wonder what else is to be done with my last aubergine.

From McGee’s On Food and Cooking in the section on Fruits Used as Vegetables:

(hang on, this is a long one, but indeed quite helpful.)

Eggplants, or Aubergines Eggplants are the only major vegetable in the nightshade family that came from the Old World. An early ancestor may have floated from Africa to India or Southeast Asia, where it was domesticated, and where small, bitter varieties are still appreciated as a condiment. Arab traders brought it to Spain and north Africa in the Middle Ages, and it was eaten in Italy in the 15th century, in France by the 18th. (The etymology of aubergine mirrors this history; it comes via Spanish and Arabic from the Sanskrit name.) Thanks to its tropical origins, the eggplant doesn’t keep well in the refrigerator; internal chilling damage leads to browning and off-flavors in a few days.

There are many varieties of eggpant, white- and orange- and purple-skinned, pea- and cucumber- and melon-sized, very mild and intensely bitter. Most market types are colored with purple anthocyanins, while a different species (S. aethiopicum) provides the orange carotenoid types. All eggplants have a spongy interior, with many tiny air pockets between cells. When cooked, the air pockets collapse and the flesh consolidates into a fine-textured mass, sometimes creamy (most Asian varieties) and sometimes meaty (most European varieties) depending on the varieity, maturity, and preparation. In baked casseroles–the Greek moussaka and Italian eggplant parmigiana–eggplant slices retain some structure; in Middle Eastern dip baba ghanoush, grilled pureed eggplant provides the smooth, melting body that carries the flavors of sesame paste, lemon juice, and garlic.

Eggplant’s spongy structure has two notable consequences for the cook. One is that eggplants shrink down to a relatively small volume when cooked. The other is that when fried, raw eggplant pieces soak up oil, leaving little on the pan for lubrication and making the vegetable very rich. In some preparations–such as the famous Turkish dish Imam bayaldi, “the priest fainted,” in which halved eggplants are stuffed and baked in copious olive oil–this richness is desired and maximized. Otherwise, the absorptiveness of eggplant can be reduced by collapsing its spongy structure before frying. This is accomplished by precooking it–microwaving works well–or by salting slices to draw out moisture from the cells and into the air pockets. Salting is often recommended as a way to remove the bitterness sometimes found in older eggplants grown in dry conditions, but it probably just reduces our perception of the alkaloids; the bulk of the cell fuids remains in the cells.

(p. 332)

Well.  There you have it.  Don’t put them in the fridge, microwave them, and the priest fainted.

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Swiss Chard, you say.

I’m desperately trying to finish up last week’s CSA bucket before I have to go pick up another this afternoon.

So.  Swiss Chard.  What….I just….How do you….Oh hell.

Time to ask my BFFs Harold McGee and Mark Bittman what in the world you do with that stuff.

If you don’t have McGee’s ubiquitous culinary school text On Food and Cooking, you’re missin’ out.  That dude is rad and that book invaluable.

     Swiss Chard: Chard is the name given to varieties of the beet, Beta vulgaris, that have been selected for thick, meaty leaf stalks (supspecies cicla) rather than their roots.  The beet is a distant relative of spinach, and its leaves–including ordinary, thin-midribbed beet greens–also contain oxalates. Chard stalks and leaf veins can be colored brilliant yellow, orange, and crimson byt the same betain pigments that color the roots, which are water-soluble and stain cooking liquids and sauces. Some of the recently revived color varieties are heirlooms that go back to the 16th century. (p. 325)

He also has a long section on Betains and how they contribute to exciting shades of urine after consumption.  Added Bonus!

What I’ve done with swiss chard is the same thing I’ve done with other greens.  Saute them with tasty extras e.g., garlic, vinegar, wine, broths, spices.  It was gross.

So this time I blanched it and froze it so Orlando could throw it into an omelet or into some pasta.

blanche that chard

Don't bother the chards while they're a-blanchin'

 

Maybe it will not be gross this time.  Or maybe the excitement of surprise urine discoloration will make it worth my while.

I also shredded my 3 kohlrabi bulbs from last week to make into delicious delicious kohlrabi hash browns.  Can’t go wrong there.

….that only leaves the lettuce.

I’ve had all the lettuce I can bear for a while.  Good thing there are others in my house whose digestion could use a boost.

 

Jackpot!

 

 

And lettuce not forget the dogs.  They will eat all the leftover lettuce.

Never having had a steak bone or sausage, the dogs think lettuce is the best treat ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus picture of the dogs fighting over the last free piece.  And we thought Marilyn had the crazy eyes yesterday.

Really, Truman? It's just lettuce. Seriously.