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Adventures in Cooking [Aug. 21st, 2014|11:51 am]
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On Wednesdays, a food co-op leaves boxes of produce at church--outside, in a little courtyard--for its members to pick up.   Arriving choir members headed for supper in the church and then rehearsal, like me, pass by people poking through the boxes and making their choices. Even if no one happens to be there, no choir member would think of snitching a carrot or onion or zucchini.   Exiting choir members after rehearsal (hours and hours later)  see empty boxes on the table and sigh.


Last night the unexpected happened.  The food co-op made its usual delivery sometime in the day, as it does, but...no co-op members showed up to pick up their share.   At least not that anyone saw.  There the vegetables were, out in the hot (and it was HOT) sun, wilting by the hour.   And when the choir emerged from rehearsal and started to leave, the church receptionist said "Nobody picked up the food from the co-op today...go for it."   The alternative was binning it, because leaving it out there overnight would have made the rats happy, but no one else.

And some of us did.  It was dark out there, only a little light from the spotlight near the sycamore tree, so we were pulling things out of boxes and having to smell and feel them to figure out what they were in the dimness.  (The hoped-for bunch of basil was something no one recognized, but Julie took home.)   Tomatoes, if any, had vanished before I got there, but I came home with things I've cooked a lot with (various peppers, a cucumber, a zucchini, three sweet potatoes,  a small onion, a little bag of purple carrots) and something I hadn't: eggplant.  My husband had previously expressed a dislike of eggplant, so I just never cooked it (I didn't much like it myself, the ways I'd had it.)  

But I'm a firm believer in the power of major soup to overcome any ingredient that doesn't make me sick (as broccoli, for instance, does.  Or cabbage.  About fifteen years or so ago,  cabbage in soup turned from a perfectly reasonable addition to a stick of dynamite in the innards.)   I had some other vegetables handy, and just last week had made a fresh batch of chicken stock, that superb base for so many soups.

The rescued  vegetables:

To these will be added more onions, diced tomatoes and green chilis, a yellow and a green sweet pepper, spinach, corn, some white beans (soaking now), celery, and garlic.  And of course bay leave and thyme and basil and peppercorns and...whatever else strikes my fancy.   My soups tend to be free-form--whatever's around goes in them, the more the merrier.  Some of these will get a pre-soup-pot roasting.  My guess is that we will decide we like eggplant in soup.

I'm sorry the people who should have picked up this produce didn't--clearly they missed some good stuff--but I can't help being glad of the chance to try out eggplant in soup without investing in it.

[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2014-08-21 06:39 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that the veggies found a good home. Java discovered that while he usually doesn't like Eggplant, he did really enjoy the ratatouille he made after we saw the movie.

I think I need to make some soup soon. I'll need to remember to soak the beans. I tend to forget until that morning (oops).
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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2014-08-21 07:21 pm (UTC)
I've actually never had eggplant in soup. I hope you'll have time to report how it was.

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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2014-08-21 08:44 pm (UTC)
I find that cutting the eggplant into small cubes and frying them in butter works very well for me, and we've discovered and absolutely stunning aubergine curry - it's exceedingly complex, but YUM.

I'm glad the veggies found a good home.
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[User Picture]From: enleve
2014-08-25 09:10 am (UTC)
The aubergine curry sounds interesting. What do you put in it? Any special techniques involved to make the eggplant turn out well?
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2014-08-25 09:33 am (UTC)
It's this one:

(We had it last night: still delicious, though we usually use only greek yoghurt instead of curds *and* cream.)

The trick for the aubergine seems to be to fry it with little oil in a non-stick pan, fairly hot so it browns rather than getting soggy; and I get this out of the way first before I start on the onions etc.

The trick for the rest of the recipe is to measure out spices into two cups and mix them up - that way you cook it 'fry seeds, put in onions/ginger/garlic/chilli, put in second spice mixture'. If you try to measure them out separately, you'll get into a hopeless muddle. At least I did, the first time I tried to cook this, with some things burning before I'd gotten to the last of the spices.

Since I no longer flail just reading the ingredient list, this has become one of my go-to quick meals - you get the aubergine marinading first, and by the time you've measured out everything and chopped the onions etc, it's ready to fry.
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[User Picture]From: enleve
2014-08-27 08:27 pm (UTC)
It looks delicious. Thank you for the recipe, and for the tips on how to prepare it. Looking at the list of spices, I can see why getting them all ready before starting would be helpful. And I haven't browned eggplant before, so maybe that will help the eggplant dishes I cook turn out better.
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From: 6_penny
2014-08-22 03:32 am (UTC)
many decades ago a roommate produced the most fabulous soup based on leftover ratatouille. We tried to reproduce it for the rest of the year and never quite got it. I still have a memory of the flavour.
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-08-22 01:56 pm (UTC)


Oooh, eggplant slices on the grill. Paint them with olive oil first. They hold their shape but eat like pudding. It was a revelation to me. Enjoy your eggplant soup.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-08-22 02:21 pm (UTC)

Re: R

These are little eggplants (LITTLE eggplants) so I think their destiny is soup, not grilling (which we don't do much anyway.) But thanks for telling me. If I get some bigger ones sometime, I'll try it.
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From: 6_penny
2014-08-22 06:51 pm (UTC)

Re: R

They may be Asian rather than Italian eggplants- thinner skin and firmer to my taste - I find that they work very well in stir fry - chop and sear (with spicing) before putting in the soup perhaps - they absorb flavors well.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-08-22 07:49 pm (UTC)

Re: R

Someone in the choir told me they were Turkish eggplants. One was damaged all down one side; I put the other one in the soup--it had lots of brown seeds in it, so I de-seeded it. This may be wrong, but was recommended by one online source. (Put it in cut into small chunks.) The purple "western" one didn't the obvious ripening seeds, so I just cut it into small chunks and put it in that way. The soup is smelling good. It will be supper tonight.
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[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2014-08-22 06:36 pm (UTC)
Those look lovely, and should make a grand soup.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2014-08-22 08:29 pm (UTC)
I never thought I liked them very much (I, of course, know them as "aubergines"); I can certainly live without them roasted, which my husband adores, but I do like them in a ratatouille. And I particularly like them cubed, "slow-fried" over a very low heat with a lid on so they cook in their own steam (the way I cook most vegetables these days), and then with goats' cheese or other cream cheese stirred through them, and served with pasta. That is seriously good.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2014-08-23 02:55 am (UTC)
The soup turned out well and we all liked it. Here's the recipe (not all the scavenged veggies ended up in the soup. They will be used elsewhere.) An asterisk denotes scavenged veggies

1 quart homemade chicken stock, maybe 1 1/2 cups of water added as needed
1 tablespoon (approx) veal demi-glace
1 28 oz can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes & green chilis
~ 2 cups chopped celery
1 cup dry white beans, soaked overnight
3-4 small purple carrots sliced into rounds*
2 medium onions, sliced thinly and sauteed
1 small purple eggplant, cut into small cubes*
1 small green (Asian?) eggplant, deseeded and cut into small cubes*
2 cups yellow corn kernels (frozen)
1-2 cups chopped spinach (frozen)
1 orange sweet pepper (Bell pepper) diced
1 green sweet pepper (Bell), diced
1 small purple sweet pepper, diced*

Unmeasured amount of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, added late
Bay leaf
Moroccan Tan Tan spice mix
Italian herb mix
Black peppercorns
Sea salt

The long-cooking stuff went in first (beans, carrots, celery, corn) and the faster-cooking stuff went in later, at various times accordingly.

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[User Picture]From: jenrose1
2014-08-26 08:18 pm (UTC)
So strange! I'd love to hear if the mystery is ever solved. (We have an active co-op and while sometimes people don't pick up, it's never "the whole order". )
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