Tuesday, October 22, 2013

eggplant confit

99 times out of 100, Caitlin and I are on the same page when it comes to food - we both love uni, oxtail, pig tails, broccoli raab, sour cream and onion flavored anything, and fennel, for instance. The other one percent of the time, there are a handful of things one of us likes and the other doesn't. I tend to like things more bitter and especially more tart. She's not crazy about the combination of sweet and savory, like honey on cheese, and doesn't like Buffalo wings. I'm very picky about two of her favorite vegetables, eggplant and summer squash.

It's not that I don't like either of them at all, but eggplant is a flavor I usually get tired of quickly or find distracting, while squash and zucchini are often too watery for me. I've talked about squash and zucchini in that context before - my solution is to put them in the dehydrator before cooking them, so get the excess water out. I'm perfectly happy with it in soups or on pasta at that point.

This summer we found a way that I love eggplant. We've gone through quarts of this stuff: eggplant confit.

It started with a recipe in ... Food and Wine? Epicurious? I forget, but it was for fairy tale eggplant covered in olive oil and garlic and slow-cooked until it shrivels up. My mother grows regular and Japanese eggplant, but not fairy tale eggplant, so I cut the eggplant into pieces and went from there. Most of the time we also add tomato - that's key for me, I've found, I need the acidity of tomato with eggplant.

The technique is simple: cut your eggplant into wedges or chunks (we've done both), salt, let sit for thirty minutes, pat dry, put in an oven dish and cover or mostly cover with olive oil, throw some garlic cloves or herbs in, and bake at a low temperature like 275 for at least two hours, and maybe four or five, until the eggplant is noticeably shrunken. There have been times when we've put tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes in with the eggplant too, sort of like a variation on ratatouille (the other way I like eggplant). But the first few times, we cooked the eggplant by itself, and served it with tomatoes put under the broiler with cheese and tarragon, and fresh-baked bread dipped in the oil the eggplant had cooked in. We had this exact same meal like five times during tomato season.

Broiled tomatoes, bread, eggplant confit

The eggplant also works well as a pasta sauce, again preferably with the addition of tomato. We used up some of the squid ink spaghetti (which tastes disappointingly like plain spaghetti, but looks striking) with eggplant confit, fresh fava beans, some roasted tomato, Pecorino Romano, and a barely-fried egg:

Squid ink pasta with favas, tomato, eggplant, fried egg

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