Cooking with eggplant is like painting on a blank canvas. It is full of possibilities. Bitter and spongy when raw (or undercooked… blech), eggplant (A.K.A aubergine, brinjal, brinjal eggplant, melongene, and guinea squash) melts in your mouth when roasted and takes almost no effort to cook to perfection. It is often used as a meat substitute for vegetarians due to its meaty texture and is known to be a good source of Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Dietary Fiber.
Eggplant has a delectable ability to transform; when cooked well, it softens, yet stays firm and loses much of its bitterness. It is also very diverse. The proof comes from all the traditional dishes from around the world that eggplant has played a key role in: ratatouille from France, baba ghanoush from the Middle East, mousakka from Greece, tagines in Morocco and curries in India. Eggplant is kind of a cuisine slut. It can’t make up its mind where it belongs. This is good for the rest of us.
Since returning to Korea a month ago, my kitchen has been trying so hard to be functional and efficient. Unfortunately, it has mostly failed rather disappointingly. My small Officetell apartment has little space, lacks adequate shelving and is missing an oven and other helpful cooking instruments. This is very difficult for someone like me. Cooking is more than just survival; it is art, science and passion. It is exploration, trial and error and creative expression. It is need and desire.
So, when my laundry rack is in the way of my cooking utensils and the (stupid) glass elements are just not hot enough, it’s far too easy to throw up ones hands and go get a kimbop instead.
(Un?)Luckily for me, I am unerringly determined to get my kitchen up to scratch. I will fill my kitchen with the wonderful equipment I need and magically find space for them. I’ll let you know how that goes.
All that said, I’ve been dreaming about roasting eggplant with butter, salt and cumin in my non-existent oven. Until then, here is a stuffed eggplant recipe I made shortly before leaving for Korea.
Vegetarian Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggplant with Couscous and Portobello Mushrooms
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped Portobello mushroom
- 3 tbsp chopped kalamata olives
- 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- ½ a lemon (juiced)
- ½ cup couscous
- 2 tbsp fresh minced dill
- 3 cloves garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven at 375º F/190ºC/Gas mark 5.
Split eggplant lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Leave 1/8 inch of flesh on the skin and leave the skin in tact. Set the skins aside. Sprinkle the flesh with oil and salt and bake for 20 minutes.
In a stove top pan, fry the garlic and onions with oil on medium high heat until golden. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 7 minutes. Add eggplant flesh, celery, carrots and olives. Saute for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Separate the diced tomatoes from the juice. Save juice in a bowl.
Place the fried mixture in a bowl. Add tomatoes, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Place uncooked couscous in a small bowl. Pour ¼ cup of boiling water and the juice from the tomatoes onto the couscous. The couscous should puff up and be ready to use within 10 minutes.
Turn oven temperature to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.
Divide the couscous evenly between the two eggplant shells. Press lightly on the couscous to form a flat, even bed on the bottoms of each shell.
Scoop the vegetable mixture on top of the couscous and pack it in tight.
Place the eggplants in a casserole pan and cover with foil.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil halfway through baking.
If you desire, grate some Parmesan on top of the eggplant halves 5 minutes before they are ready.
ps- Happy Birthday, mum! I love you!