Wednesday, July 20, 2011

it's eggplant season, finally.

My attitude toward food is relatively simple. I count myself one of those who lives to eat rather than eats to live. That, of course, leads to lots and lots of decisions, some peculiar, a few mainstream, about what constitutes good food. On these issues I am certainly not unbiased.

I emphatically favor local foods in season, which means we try to buy that way. It's not necessarily easy, but it's good for the planet, and maybe more importantly, the food just tastes better and is most certainly healthier. With modern transportation, refrigeration, and demand, all sorts of foods are in stores all year from all over the world. They look tempting, but under that lovely exterior, lies virtually nothing that deserves a place on our plates or in our mouths.  The issues of genetic modification, hybridization for the purpose of creating thicker skins and more readily shipped produce, as well as ad campaigns to convince us we need tomatoes and grapes in February are worthwhile topics we'll save for another time. Right now it's summer, and so much is available to us, we could have a food party every day just reveling in the excitement of summer produce.

fresh, organically grown, local---it doesn't get much better

I live in central California in the San Joaquin Valley, and here this year tomatoes are just entering the markets. I mean real tomatoes, grown in the ground and grown just miles from where I live. This is the time of year to really enjoy tomatoes. If you want them in February, buy lots of them now or in the next month or two and throw them in freezer bags to be pulled out and used next winter. Clearly, you won't use these tomatoes in a crisp salad, but they'll be great as an ingredient in any cooked dish.

Another vegetable we see way too much throughout the year is eggplant. What kind of eggplant grows in December? And where? I know it's not in my garden, and I live in an area with a pretty mild winter. Eggplant needs heat, and it needs summer. Right now eggplant is looking pretty good. We cooked our first of the year this week, not a fancy or elegant dish by any means but seriously good.

large chunks of perfectly fresh eggplant
Often eggplant recipes begin with directions to peel, slice, and salt the purple beauty. It's a pain, it's wasteful, and it's totally unnecessary. What is important is starting with very fresh, very firm, and fairly young eggplant. Organically grown is always a plus as far as I'm concerned. Bottom line as always---it's going in your body!

For a simple dish that can be prepared after work in about an hour, try this eggplant with rice. And if you're lucky enough to be able to eat cheese, you must try eggplant on pizza. It doesn't get much better!

Eggplant with Rice

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut in large chunks
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef or chopped lamb shoulder
  • 1 to 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, I use Muir Glen
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in saute pan and brown eggplant. Eggplant will absorb oil as it browns, so add a bit more if needed. Add onion, garlic, and meat to pan and saute until light brown. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper; you can add more later if needed.
Pour in tomatoes and juice and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until eggplant softens.
Add rice and continue cooking, covered for about 10 minutes until heated through.
Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.

I know this looks like a winter dish, but trust me, it's great in the summer.

Not very pretty, but really, really good---that's eggplant.


  1. That is a beautiful dish, it gives me that "warm fuzzy feeling" and reminds me of my mommy. I feel like a kid again just looking at it.

  2. sounds good and if you add cinnamon you could have a lebanese dish. yum!

  3. Thanks to both of you. This definitely has its roots in Lebanese cooking, since a lot of what I know of cooking I learned in my grandmother's kitchen. Normally, I would add pine nuts and a touch of nutmeg, but the only pine nuts I've found in awhile are from China. They just don't fall into the local category.


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