It’s been a strange summer here in eastern Pennsylvania — flooding rains, super-hot temperatures followed almost immediately by an unseasonable return to “autumn” . . . in other words, a banner year for some crops and a challenging one for others.
Rosa bianca egglplant
Square in the “challenging” category are our 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, whose flavor’s been good (though at times not as sweet as it could be, due, we think, to too much rain) but whose shoulders have cracked and scabbed due, we know, to too much rain. But it’s been the best year ever for sweet peppers and eggplants (!). Here are two of our favorite recipes for making good use of the latter, with a little help from the former . . .
Indian Roasted Eggplant Soup, from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, by The Moosewood Collective
1/4 cup olive oil, more or less as desired
2 medium eggplants (about 2 lb.)
2 red bell peppers (about 3/4 lb.)
3 tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
sprinkling of salt and ground black pepper
1 3/4 c. reduced-fat coconut milk (1 14-oz. can) (we use high-test :-)
1 t. salt
1 1/2 to 3 cups water (we use veggie or chicken stock)
2 t. olive oil
1/2 t. black mustard seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground cardamom
1/4 t. cayenne or red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly brush two baking sheets with some of the olive oil. Halve the eggplants and bell peppers lengthwise. Stem the tomatoes and halve them crosswise. Place all of the vegetables cut side up on the baking sheets. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes, until dark brown and soft or, for a smoky flavor, even slightly charred. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet on medium heat, warm 2 t. of olive oil. Add the black mustard and cumin seeds and simmer until they begin to pop. Reduce heat to low and add the coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Stirring constantly, heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant, taking care not to burn the spices. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the roasted veggies are cool enough to handle, remove their skins. In batches in a blender, puree the vegetables with the coconut milk, salt, and enough water or stock to make the soup the thickness you like. Place the puree in a nonreactive soup pot and gently heat. Stir in half the reserved spice mixture and then add more to taste. (We usually add it all!)
Eggplant Parmesan, from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
This is an easy, healthier version of traditional eggplant parmesan — no breading or frying but great taste!
2 medium eggplants, about 1 1/2 lb.
salt and freshly milled pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh tomato sauce (we use our regular marinara)
8 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
4 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced if fresh, grated otherwise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish. Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/3 inch thick. (We peel the eggplant too, to avoid any chance or hint of bitterness). Unless eggplant is garden fresh, sprinkle it with salt and let stand for 30 mins. to an hour, then blot dry.
Preheat the broiler. Brush both sides of each round with olive oil and broil 5 to 6 inches from the heat until browned. Broil the second side until browned, then remove and season lightly with salt and pepper. Don’t worry if the eggplant has a dry appearance.
Warm the tomato sauce with half the basil. Spread about a third of the sauce over the bottom of the dish, then make an overlapping layer of eggplant. Lay the mozzarella over the top, add the rest of the basil, and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Add the rest of the eggplant and cover it with the remaining sauce. Bake in the middle of the oven until bubbling and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.