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Archive for the ‘Tomato’ Category

Solarium melongena, better known in English as eggplant (or aubergine, or brinjal), is the only nightshade growing in most vegetable gardens that did not originate in the Americas. Tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes all spread from west to east. Eggplant, however, was first cultivated in India before its range was extended by the Arabs to include the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. Europeans north of the Alps were initially very wary of this fruit, believing it caused insanity, calling it mala insana, or mad apple.

Though a staple vegetable in Indian cuisine, in the Ayurvedic tradition it is classified as a tamasic substance (like tobacco, alcohol, and garlic) that benefits neither the mind nor the body, withdrawing energy and clouding the powers of reason. In fact, eggplant is related to tobacco and contains nicotine, though in much smaller amounts: you would have to eat 9 kilos of eggplant to ingest the amount of nicotine in one cigarette.

Three American presidents are associated with eggplant. President Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplant to the United States, importing seeds from Europe and sowing them at Monticello. President Andrew Johnson’s favorite food was eggplant stuffed with tomatoes, onions, breadcrumbs, and celery, while President Warren G. Harding liked his sliced, baked, and marinated in mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire and chili sauce.

As for me, I like eggplant caviar, pasta with eggplant and fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, and the following casserole.

Eggplant casserole with creamy tomato-walnut sauce

Ingredients

1 kilo (2.2 lbs) eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin rounds or rectangles

Olive oil

2 onions, diced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

3 tomatoes, diced

2 ts nutmeg

Fresh basil

2 Tbs crème fraîche

4 Tbs ground walnuts

300-400 g cheese of your choice (I have used a mixture of Topfen and fresh sheep’s cheese as well as just mozzarella )

Fry the eggplant in the olive oil until cooked through. Transfer to a large rectangular baking dish.

Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes, nutmeg, and basil, cooking several minutes until the tomatoes are done. Stir in the crème fraîche and walnuts.

Spread the sauce over the eggplant. Top with the cheese.

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 20-25 minutes.

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Giuseppe Arcimbaldo (1527-1593), a court portraitist who served 3 Hapsburg kings in both Vienna and Prague, is best known for his paintings which depict a human head using fruit, vegetables, animals, and other natural objects that are related to the subject of the painting. For example, Water (1566).

Ratatouille is a dish made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and onion stewed in olive oil with various herbs. It arose in the area near Nice at the end of the eighteenth century.

Both Arcimbaldo paintings and ratatouille are composed of disparate elements that retain their distinct form.

Ratatouille à l’Arcimbaldo

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, diced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

1 eggplant, diced

1 ts salt

1-2 ts cumin

½ ts cinnamon

¼ – ½ ts cayenne pepper

black pepper

several sprigs of savory

1 zucchini, diced

a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden

fresh basil

125 g fresh sheep or goat cheese, crumbled

150 g (1 cup) couscous

Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the eggplant, salt, spices, and savory and cook covered until the eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook another 10 minutes until tender. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the couscous. Bring 125 ml (1 cup) water to a boil. Add the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.

When the couscous is done, add to the stew. Mix in chopped fresh basil and the cheese.

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