One of my New Year's resolutions last year was to branch out in my cooking and try new ingredients. I also wanted to get a new perspective on foods that I didn't think I liked. This has become more of a lifestyle now, so I have carried it into 2012. Eggplant is one of those such foods that I used to have something against. The only way I would ever eat it was eggplant Parmesan, which hardly counts when it is coated in egg and bread crumbs to be fried in oil.
So last year I began my branching out project with eggplant. I started small, by roasting a bunch of vegetables like carrots, potatoes and broccoli and sneaked in thinly sliced eggplant. And to my surprise, it wasn't so bad. Then I moved on to adding it in a stir fry. I could do this. Sandwiches with roasted eggplant...no problem. I was getting the hang of this...
...which brings us to now. I recently discovered a great cookbook at the library called 'Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students'. I took it to the coffee shop to page through while sipping a mug of tea. And I found myself flagging almost every other page. This is my new favorite piece of reading material. So I decided to start from the beginning and work my way through all the highlighted pages. So to go alphabetically, I started with Africa and came upon this recipe from Chad, using eggplants and peanuts. Sounded intriguing and a little out of my comfort zone. Even though I thought I had mastered the art of liking eggplant, this was still a branch out for me.
The recipe entails peeling the eggplant and cutting it into small cubes. Upon doing so, I was a little nervous about the sponginess of the cubes. After peeling them and letting them sit for awhile, they looked more like apple cubes than eggplant. But I pushed through. I then sauteed them in olive oil and subsequently tossed them in vinegar, garlic and crushed peanuts. And wow it is quite nice. The tang from the vinegar mixed with the salt and crunch of the peanuts made for new flavors in my Rolodex. So if eggplant is one of your questionable vegetables, please try to make friends with it this year...even if you have to start small like I did and sneak them in with other vegetables. They really do have a lot to offer.
Peanut Eggplant Salad
Adapted from 'Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students'
Yields 2 cups
This simple recipe provides such a flavorful dimension to your plate. You can eat it by itself as a lunch or dinner salad, or serve it alongside eggs or your favorite protein. It works well hot or cold. I recommend keeping the peanuts separate until you are about to eat the dish so they stay crunchy.
1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the eggplant chunks into a large strainer. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, toss to coat and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the vinegar and garlic and set aside to allow flavors to marry. After the eggplant have been relating to the salt, rinse with running water. Press all excess water out of the eggplant and gently squeeze dry with a paper towel.
In a medium to large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Drop the eggplant in and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continuously stir until the eggplant are lightly browned and fully cooked, which takes about 7 minutes. Occasionally give them a good press into the pan with the spatula to release any excess water.
Carefully spoon the eggplant out of pan and into the bowl with vinegar and garlic. Toss with the peanuts and any more salt and pepper you think it needs. If you think you may have leftovers, save some of the peanuts to toss into it when you eat it again so they stay crunchy. Serve immediately, or cool in the fridge and serve later.