Friday, August 19, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Eggplant Caviar

You know you're addicted to food blogging when you dream about food, and compose blog posts in your sleep. Normal women dream about wild sex and nude sunbathing on exotic beaches in faraway lands. Evidently, I'm no longer normal. The other morning, I stumbled out of an early morning dream about eggplants. Just as I opened my eyes and tossed the covers off, my friend's short essay about eggplants resurfaced from the nooks and crannies of my brain - it was the ideal introduction to this week's French Fridays with Dorie post.

I have to wonder why humankind ever started eating eggplants. They’re not all that appetizing. In its natural state—uncooked, unseasoned, undressed—an eggplant is downright dry, pithy and tasteless. You will never find a juicy, delicious eggplant. You will never want to chomp into one raw, as you would an apple, a pear or a peach. Oh yes, the eggplant is a fruit. Seeds on the inside; that’s the tipoff. But a strange fruit for sure. About the only way you can eat an eggplant is cooked to a fine mash, smothered in cheese and marinara sauce, saturated with olive oil—and calories. Truth be told, an honest eggplant would never claim to stand on its own in the kitchen pantheon, never presume to be more than what it is, a bland, blank canvas made to showcase the bright, bold flavors of comelier foods. On the other hand, if you can fight the urge to slice, dice and devour your eggplant—which shouldn’t really be too hard—it will reward your kindness with beauty, a gleaming purple splendor unrivaled by any other species of produce. Thus freed to embrace its truest, highest and best self, an honest eggplant can rise to the ranks of majesty.
Sandra Millers Younger


This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Eggplant Caviar (caviar d’aubergine), is a spread/dip similar to Baba Ghanoush, but without tahini. We're addicted to the Baba Ghanoush at Apollonia Bistro, a quaint little Greek place next door to Bristol Farms in La Jolla, so Dorie's variation had a tough act to follow.

Why is it called eggplant caviar? Wikipedia explains that in some eastern European countries, such as Ukraine and Russia, "Ikra" also refers to an eggplant or squash spread which is often called "poor man's caviar." In England this is known as Aubergine Caviar. Similarly, "Texas caviar" is a type of salad or dip made from whole black-eyed peas. In the United Kingdom, "Yorkshire caviar" is a playful term for mushy peas, in reference to the stereotype of Yorkshiremen as dour folk who won't spend money on luxuries.  Okay, but I'm still perplexed.

Eggplant Caviar
Adapted from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
Makes about 3 cups

2 large eggplants (about 1 to 1-1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the finished dip
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I used about a tablespoon of roasted garlic)
1 small onion, minced (I didn't love the raw onion flavor and texture and will try caramelizing the onions or possibly substituting a few tablespoons minced shallots next time)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon Piment d'Espelette (or smoked paprika, cayenne, or other red Chile powder)
Salt and freshly ground pepper (smoked salt, if you have it)
3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, chopped and seeded (optional)

Serving suggestions: Toasted baguette slices, pita bread, or crackers

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put the eggplants on a baking sheet lined with foil, prick with a knife in several places, and roast 45 to 60 minutes, until soft and shriveled (I also like the sound of David Lebovitz' method, here, for a bit more smokiness).
2. Cool and halve eggplants; scrape the flesh into a food processor and discard the skins. Add olive oil and puree. Add remaining ingredients and pulse just to combine (If you want a chunkier texture, you can mash and mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a fork). Season to taste, with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon into a bowl, cover, and chill several hours, or overnight.

4. Just before serving, fold in chopped tomatoes, if using, and drizzle with olive oil.

Eggplant caviar can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for a few days.

Despite its deceiving name, Eggplant Caviar surely deserves a spot in your dip/spread rotation.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get naked, crawl between some crisp, cool sheets and dream about wild sex and exotic beaches in a faraway lands. After all, eggplant caviar is an aphrodisiac? Isn't it?


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!


Cher said...

Very funny. I must admit, I have bursts of "blogging inspriation" and have been known to hop out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down some notes from a post that starts to materialize in my head.
I wish I could just run with the whole beach concept :-)

Ei said...

I'm pretty confused regarding the whole "caviar" label, as well. I figured it was like this was the most decadent thing poor people could afford or that this was the best thing you could do with an eggplant. Either way, it still seems a stretch.

I love your starfish plates! I'm glad you enjoyed!

Anonymous said...

Completely agree about the onion. The more I think about it, the more I want them carmelized.

Pachecopatty said...

Is that what 'normal' women dream about?? Are you sure it's not eggplants?? I packed an eggplant in my suitcase and brought with me on a weekend golf trip- is that normal?
I love your plates!!!!
I'm going to have to make this caviar the right way because I didn't pack the recipe(book too heavy)- it looks so good;-)

Lizzy said...

Such beautiful photos! LOL, I haven't had many food dreams, yet, I can't say I'm having those normal dreams, either :)

Shaheen said...

I absolutely love how you have presented your aubergine caviar. Just makes me want to reach into the screen and get some.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know caviar is used in so many different context! Thanks for including the excerpt from the essay as well. Good read.

Now I say we all go and try to dream like normal women do. LOL

Tammy said...

I can certainly identify with your first paragraph! Ugh. Thanks for including the excerpt too ... she sure elevated eggplant to another level!

Betsy said...

I love the eggplant essay. I don't know that writer. Does she write more about food? I think you're in good company in this group as far as food dreams go. At least, I'm with you there. I enjoyed this one.

lola said...

I agree with you. This is good but I'd rather have baba ghanoush!

Foodiva said...

I'm glad to know that I dream like a normal woman, now if only those dreams translate to real life! LOL. I liked how this dip tasted and elevating its status to glamorous caviar bears no harm either when you serve it at dinner parties.

tricia s. said...

This was informative AND hilarious. Yes, I agree that blogging can definitely creep into one's mind and schedule - but dreams is a new one ! Your "caviar" looks lovely and I am so glad you enjoyed it. I am glad I tried it as well, though Nana was not a big fan. It also inspired me to "live a little" and get around to trying real caviar soon ~

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your friend's essay - it's quite good! As for food blogging dreams, I'm afraid you're probably stuck with them now. You'll have to go on vacation and jumpstart your subconscious for the other kind.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I think we ALL have dreams about food and blogging! It's our own little community about "normal" dreaming! How cute! Well I hope you liked it for all the fretting we did over it!

Elin said...

Thanks for such a wonderful and informative write out on this eggplant caviar. I like the " poor man's caviar " part : :p Great pictures ! I made sopes to eat with this delicious and flavorful 'caviar' :)

Bunkycooks said...

LOL! What a way to make a girl feel bad first thing in the morning! I guess I haven't been normal for quite a long time. I used to dream about what I would make for the next dinner party or for supper the next day before I started the blog. Demented...yes, I know! In fact, I am dreaming about those beignets right now! ;) Less than a week to go!

Steph said...

Looks terrific. I think caramelized onions would be perfect (I'm not a huge fan of raw onions either).