05 March 2010

Enjoy Louisiana Culture: Love Those Eggplant Recipes

*** Fun article about Louisiana food culture. 3 eggplant recipes and 4 cooking videos to get you on your way to cooking this great vegetable! Funny veggie photos of eggplants "in the wild." :)

Immigrants Blend to Create Food Culture

With our Sicilian and Italian immigrant cultures over a century old now in Louisiana we still love eggplant dishes. Eggplant pasta can be found in the humble Italian eateries, eggplant appetizers stacked high at the most elegant restaurants from New Orleans to Lafayette, eggplant in home-made casseroles for that creamy texture, and, of course, warm eggplant dips for social gatherings like football parties, weddings, christenings and family reunions!


Sauteed Eggplant with Honey and Cheese





Eggplant Bad Rap: Bitterness and Seeds

Some people frown at eggplant as it is a nightshade plant like tomatoes. The key to using eggplant in any dish is to sweat down the raw slices with some salt in a colander over a bowl to catch the bitter juices as they scurry out of the vegetable. That bitterness is difficult to digest and is often the main complaint people have about the vegetable. Some people soak their eggplant in milk to draw out the bitterness as in a recipe below.

The other complaint is the seeds. If you make sure to cook, bake, fry or sauté it long enough the seeds soften into the “no-bother” stage. Eggplant tends to absorb oil when you sauté or fry it so take care to watch how much you use for any dish if you are watching your calories.

My father used to like to coat eggplant slices with batter and sauté it in a pan and it sure did soak up the oil, enough to make me run for the Highland hills. Tasted great but if you cannot handle much oil which is acidic on the stomach you might want to try another method like baking the eggplant.

Japanese Style Eggplant Salad - scroll down to photo credits for link to photographer's flickr page for ingredients list









Louisiana Men Are Great Cooks!

When it comes to eggplant I’m part of the lazy cook crowd and prefer to peel and dice up the eggplant, sweat out the bitterness for about 30 minutes, rinse it and then throw it together with some spices, cheese and whatever else grabs me, shove it in the oven, covered, and let it bake away until soft, succulent and wonderfully tasty!

Louisiana men LOVE to cook and especially for large gatherings. They are often heads of law firms, newscasters, founders of a local phone or natural gas company and they still choose to cook for anyone and everyone. They can also be what we call “country boys” who may have a construction, factory or refinery job, love to hunt and fish in their off hours and cook for their families and friends whenever someone drops by for a visit. They often get on their new tech cell phones and call around and invite just to have an excuse to cook. Men who love to cook; does it get any better than that?


Eggplant Nixon Humor





Cajun Cookbook and River Road Recipes

One local newscaster in Baton Rouge, an extremely popular man, was Cajun Vernon Roger (pronounced French way, not Anglicized). He’d do the news in this metro market and then slide on over to the cooking segment to assist the local chefs or do his own dishes. He was full of personality and showmanship. Most of all the man could really cook! So many viewers liked his cooking segments that he eventually self-published a spiral bound cookbook that was instantly a big hit, enjoying several printings for many years. Though he is gone and the original cookbook is out of print there is still a newer version of his cookbook available where they reduced the calories for more modern tastes.

You can order from Barnes and Noble: Roger’s Cajun Cookbook Lite. The Number is ISBN-13: 9780681480049 if you desire to look elsewhere and retails for about $27. You can occasionally find an autographed version in the used book section and they run about $75 each. The original cookbook is hard to come by unless you check out a used book fair and hope you get lucky.

Amazon.com has the original cookbook and the newer version with far more available well-priced copies than Barnes and Noble.

Also, a real sacred cow here in Louisiana is the beloved charity organization of the Junior League that published the nationally popular cookbook series: River Road Recipes. Most people love the first two cookbooks. This eggplant recipe is from River Road Recipes II: A Second Helping, originally published in 1976, which is available from Amazon too from $3 to $18.

Here are several recipes to enjoy and maybe think again of trying this versatile much maligned but tasty vegetable!

Eggplant Medallions with Crawfish Cream Sauce

From: Vernon Roger – Roger’s Cajun Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 eggplant peeled and sliced 1/4–inch thick

2 cups corn flour (fish-shrimp fry)

1 cup whipping cream

½ teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce/other hot sauce brand you like, this one is not as hot as Tabasco brand

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1 Tablespoon brandy

2 Tablespoons butter

½ onion, chopped

3 Tablespoons chopped green onions

1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 cup milk

Vegetable oil for frying like peanut oil that can take a high heat

1 cup crawfish tails (you could substitute shrimp or other seafood you like)

1 cup sliced mushrooms


Directions for frying eggplant: Soak eggplant in milk 7 minutes. Remove and discard milk. (This is where the bitter juice of the eggplant went, so you definitely want to discard this liquid.) Season corn flour with salt, red pepper, black pepper and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Heat oil. Dip slices in corn flour. Fry in hot oil till golden brown. Remove, drain on paper towel and keep warm.

Directions for Sauce: Melt butter in skillet. Add chopped onion, mushrooms and sauté 3 – 4 minutes. Add whipping cream. Simmer on medium to high heat till cream reduces by half. Add salt, red pepper, black pepper, oregano and hot pepper. Simmer 1 minute. Add crawfish, green onions, and parsley. Simmer 1 minute. Add brandy and simmer 1 minute. Lay 1 slice eggplant on plate. Spoon sauce over eggplant. Repeat with as many slices as desired.

Eggplant Parmesan - demos the layering technique





Eggplant Frittata - she shows you how to peel, slice, wash it if you are unfamiliar with eggplant





Eggplant Yuck or Yum! Poll

Do you like to cook and/or eat eggplant?

68% Yes, often
23% Yes, occasionally - it is a nightshade plant after all...
5% No, are you kidding? Yuck to the highest power!
5% Maybe - never gave it much thought but willing to try it now


Grilled Eggplant





Eggplant Tomato Curry - Louisiana elected 1st Indian-American governor, parents: Dems, he: Republican






Eggplant Ground Meat Casserole

From: River Road Recipes II: A Second Helping, published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1976. Recipe donated by Mrs. Arthur Keller

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:

4 large eggplants

1 large onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped

4 pods garlic, chopped

3 medium slices baked ham, cut into small pieces

1 cup butter (2 sticks)/you can substitute another oil of your choice like canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil as this is a 1970’s recipe and the Junior League has updated it for modern tastes in successive cookbooks.

1 ½ pounds mixed ground beef and pork

6 to 8 slices stale bread

½ cup cream

1 cup milk

5 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Bread, cracker, or potato chip crumbs to top

Directions: Peel, dice and simmer eggplants in small amount of water until tender. Does not take long. (I like to sweat the eggplant first to remove bitterness, and then proceed to boiling.) Sauté together onion, celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic and ham in butter/other oil you prefer until soft. Add all meat and cook until done. Combine bread with cream, milk and beaten eggs. Add this mixture to cooked meat and vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Pour into ungreased but wet, not too deep, large casserole. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes. When done, sprinkle top with your choice of bread or cracker or crumbled potato chips crumbs. Allow 2 to 3 minutes to heat. Remove from oven and serve.


Eggplant Man Humor




Savory Eggplant Tomato Butter

From: Chef Michael Flores from San Antonio, Texas that he uses for wedding menus

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cups peeled and finely chopped eggplant

½ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped plum tomatoes

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Directions: In a medium saucepan, combine eggplant, onion, tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper. Cook over very low heat; stirring frequently, until eggplant is brown and tender, 10 to 15 minutes; cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine eggplant mixture with butter until blended.

Divide butter in half; place each half on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Shape into logs, 1 inch in diameter; wrap securely.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Use within a week or freeze up to 3 months. Serve with grilled chicken and fish or toss with pasta, rice and vegetables.


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