Thursday, 8 August 2013

Just a Little Bit Longer

Melanzane Lunghi, Ripiene di Pomodoro, Basilico & Menta, con Couscous, Fagiolina, Menta & Limone
Long, Skinny Eggplants, Stuffed with Tomato, Basil & Mint, with String Bean, Mint & Lemon Couscous

Rather long and only a little thicker than my fingers, these eggplants caught my eye on my last trip to the market hall and I just had to have them! Bright purple and pretty amazing, they looked like props from a new Avatar movie more than my supper... and yet that is exactly what they became!

I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with them at the time, but the classic Sicilian flavors of mint, basil, tomato and garlic already were on the list as far as ingredients concerned... and then couscous! What could be quicker, easier and more fun to prepare than these? Not many things, eh?

Let's start with the couscous- as that is also what I started with myself. To make it, I put 3 tablespoons of couscous, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped beans, 1 finely chopped Spring onion, a handful each of finely chopped mint and parsley, the juice of half a lemon, salt, and pepper into a bowl. I then covered the ingredients with boiling water, stirred them through and let them sit for the next 10-15 minutes. 

This of course did not actually "cook" anything, but it came pretty close! In any case, it took the hard raw "edge" off the texture of the beans and also off the flavor of the onion, making everything just a little bit milder- which was a very good thing! I adjusted the seasoning, added a little olive oil and slight hint of honey and then set the couscous to one side whilst I prepared the eggplants... so far so gut!

For the eggplants, I cut a thin slice away from 2 adjacent sides, as you can see in my photos- this allowed the eggplant to cook much quicker and also for them to not roll about. I then took the eggplants and made 2 cuts into them- this time in the sides that were still skin-coated. I loosened up the opening a little with my finger and then began to put together the filling. This was a leaf each of both basil an mint and a half of a cherry tomato, which I simply slid into the opening- easy. 

I laid the eggplants out into a frying pan, added just enough water to cover the base, popped on the lid and turned on the heat for 3-4 minutes, just to get the eggplant steaming in advance. I took off the lid, carefully flipped the eggplants over and let them continue to bubble away. In a minute or so, the water had evaporated away and I then added a little olive oil and a clove of garlic, just to slightly perfume things.

Next step was to turn on the broiler and then pop the frying pan into the oven, which I had set to 300° F. I seasoned with coarse sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, then popped them back into the oven. After 3-4 minutes from each side, the eggplants were sizzling away, deep golden brown and they smelled absolutely wonderful too!

I served up the eggplants on top of bed of couscous, with a few little mint leaves as a garnish, a sprinkle of finely chopped lemon zest and parsley and a last squeeze of lemon juice. The eggplant would taste equally wonderful cold I'm sure, but as usual, it was soon eaten up this evening whilst it was still hot from the oven. But the whole combination was wonderfully refreshing with the herbs, the couscous and the citrus flavor- perfect for a hot Summer evening!

Chances are that they won't have these at the market hall again in a hurry- and most probably you will not be able get them if you go out hunting in your neck of the woods- but the principle and the flavors can be applied to a regular eggplant too- it will just take a little while longer... but the wait would be worth it!

Give this a go and I am sure you will like it every bit as much as I did! 

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