Monday, 11 August 2014

What Came First- The Quail or the Egg(plant)?

Melanzane a Quaglia al Cartoccio & Couscous Estivo
Foil-Wrapped "Quail-Cut" Eggplants & Summer Couscous

How many ways are there to prepare eggplant? Well, I have tried quite a few in my time, but it was a first this evening to try preparing them this way- based on an ages-old traditional Sicilian recipe.

The original version of this dish was deep fried, but I prepared mine by baking it in a foil parcel and then broiling it, to make it into a much lighter dish... I think I may be on to something here!


"Quaglia" is the Italian word for "quail"- and as legend has it, this was a dish invented by the cook of a nobleman, that found himself having to improvise when said nobleman demanded quail for supper- and there was none to be had.

Apparently, the crafty cook, won both the nobleman and his guests over with his imaginative cutting technique and then by deep-frying the eggplants until they became golden brown and delicious. Now- I don't know how much truth there is in that story... and frankly, these lovely baby eggplants look like anything BUT a quail... but they tasted delicious, it is a cute story- and that is good enough for me!


I decided to pair my 4 baby eggplants with a simple and summery couscous, which I seasoned with mint, parsley, lemon, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, Spring onion and raisins.

With just 1 cup of couscous, 10 cherry tomatoes or so, 4 baby eggplants, a little fresh thyme and these other few ingredients, I managed to make 2 decent servings of light Summer food!

2 of these lovely eggplants and a nice serving of refreshing couscous should put a smile on anyone's face on a hot Summer day- or evening for that matter... and it will also fill you up without feeling heavy- especially prepared MY WAY, in the oven... Let me show you how!


To cut the eggplants, the easiest way to go about it is to make one cut down the middle, and then one more cut on either side... then to lay the sliced eggplant on its side and to repeat the same procedure. It's probably easier for to simply do it, than it is for me to explain it!


Fan the eggplant out a little and sprinkle it with salt on the cut surfaces. Let the eggplant sit for a few minutes whilst you cut a few slices of lemon and halve the cherry tomatoes. Lay the lemon slices onto a sheet of aluminum foil, then set the eggplants on top, nicely fanned-out again. Add the cherry tomatoes onto the foil, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and drizzle with olive oil and then place a second piece of aluminum foil on top so that you can fold the edges shut into a parcel.


Make sure it is tightly sealed all-round and then pop the parcel into a hot oven, at 200°C for 20-25 minutes whilst you get busy with the couscous...


For the couscous, simply slice the onion up finely, dice the tomato up finely, chop the mint and parsley finely and either cut or grate the zest of half a lemon.

Put the couscous into a bowl with the onion, half of the lemon zest, salt and pepper- so that it will infuse with these flavors as it cooks.


Cover with boiling water by about 1", stir carefully and allow to sit for 5 minutes, After 5 minutes, add a little more boiling water, stir through once more and allow to sit for a further 10 minutes.


And by that time, the couscous will have doubled in size and become lovely and fluffy and delicious!


In the meantime, the eggplant will be ready to come out of the oven, have the foil opened up and to carefully be flipped over and returned to the oven for 5 minutes uncovered on the highest shelf.


Whilst that happens, spread the couscous out on a larger plate, add the mint & parsley, the diced tomato, raisins, pine nuts and lemon zest. Add the juice of half a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, stir through gently... and you have a wonderful accompaniment to go with those delicious eggplants!

Flip the eggplants over one last time, add a last drizzle of olive oil and pop under the broiler for 4-5 minutes to take those little beauties over the edge before serving!


Serve with a last squeeze of lemon juice and scatter with a little more mint and thyme... and if this plate does not absolutely scream Summer in Sicily then I don't know hat does! This is such a perfect Summer meal!


 Pretty, colorful, simple and delicious- and a new favorite dish is born!


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