EGGPLANT IS one of our regular harvests from our organic garden in Orissa Holistic Garden. Since I am a vegetarian, I use it as my meat alternative. I use it for my adobo, kaldereta, and bola-bola. But to grill it, skin and add a splash of lemon, a dash of salt, a pinch of pepper, sprinkle bits of slices of shallots and cilantro is my favorite. It makes my version of kinilaw.
One afternoon, my sister Raquel invited me for lunch at her house. She prepared binjal curry (eggplant curry) which was awesome. I noticed that my nephews were giggling and jolting each other while watching me eat. Out of curiosity, I asked my sister why these two monkeys were laughing at me. Maybe I had dirt on my face or the food that she prepared had something non-vegetarian inside.
She quickly called the two boys to explain their behavior. The younger one, Kevin, shyly said: “We were wondering why every time you eat here, you always request for talong (aubergine). Why do you eat poor man’s food, are you poor?”
Me and my sister cracked up after hearing what this innocent honest boy said. It’s interesting to know what plays in a child’s mind. I told him that I eat eggplant because I find it tasty and easy to prepare. It is an inexpensive food, but most people eat it, because it is delicious, healthy, and easy to make. He responded “now I understand,” while his eyes were saying otherwise.
That evening, I searched for a special eggplant recipe which changed the perspective of my adorable two nephews about eggplant.
Babagannouj, is a mezze (hors d’oeuvre), famous to Middle Easterners. It is served as an appetizer paired typically with sumptuous pita bread. It has a characteristic of smoky flavor because of the way it is roasted. Ingredients: 5 big eggplants; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 2 cloves finely chopped garlic; 1 cup tahini; juice of 1 large lemon; ½ teaspoon sea salt; ¼ teaspoon coarsely black pepper; 1/2 asafetida powder; 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley; 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne. You may adjust the ingredients portion according to your taste.
Slit the eggplants on the side, to allow the steam from baking it to come out. Lightly oil the eggplants, then line them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Bake for 40 minutes or until the outside are charred and crisp. Remove the eggplants from the oven, scoop the pulp into a bowl and mash thoroughly.
Mix the eggplant pulp with the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper and asafetida until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water and combine. Transfer the mixture in a serving bowl. Pour the olive oil into the center of the dish and garnish with parsley, paprika or cayenne. Serve immediately with bread or fresh vegetables salad.