Ain’t No Outrunning the Potato

Under normal circumstances I’m calm and umm… perhaps disconnected (not sure it’s the right word, but that’s not remotely important). ANYWAYS, oh my foodness gracious I can’ t wait to share this salad with you. And for you meat-and-potato guys out there, yeah you, I’m feeling pretty solid on this one. I mean, filled with crispy roasted purple potatoes, caramelized eggplant, toasted almonds, plump sultana raisins, surely something in that list must have hit your sweet spot.

Or maybe you’re wondering if you’d like that combination. But hey, practically everything in life is trial and error (don’t do drugs, kids). Yes, of course a homogeneous bunch of people will get along, but that’s probably the most they’ll ever be. As for me, I feel blessed to have someone sweet to lift my heart, someone spicy to tickle my mind, and someone to act as salt – whom I can’t live without.

Life is a potato salad; you can put whatever you want in it. It can be a side, it can be a show. It can ruin you, it can make you. I take chances with my potato salad. I take time with each component I’ve chosen. I don’t start with a recipe – so it won’t ever be wrong.

It’s just that you want it to fulfill its purpose of providing joy and nourishment to those you love, and not have it end up in the trash.

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Ingredients for the roasted eggplant and zucchini:

1 large round eggplant, diced

1 medium zucchini, quartered then sliced 1/2 inch thick

2/3 tsp sea salt

few rounds freshly cracked black pepper

2 tbsp grape seed oil

To roast the eggplant and zucchini, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with one rack placed at the lower third of the oven and the other at the upper third. Toss all ingredients together very well, spread in a single layer onto a clean baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven on the top rack for 15 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the centers are tender. Let it rest for 5 minutes before lifting them from the pan. The 5 minutes of rest will allow steam to permeate beneath the vegetables so they don’t stick and you can get them out of the pan with their beautiful caramelized bottoms intact effortlessly.

Ingredients for the crispy blue potatoes:

1 litre water

3 tbsp white vinegar

1 1/2 tsp sea salt, divided

500g blue new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved

lots of freshly cracked black pepper

glug of grape seed oil, about 3-4 tbsp

To make the roasted potatoes, combine the water and vinegar in a pot, cover, and bring to the boil. Add 1 tsp of the salt and the potatoes. Cover and boil for 5-8 minutes, or just until tender. Drain and rinse under cool water only until cool enough to handle, then cut each half in half again, to get quarters.

Observe the skin, and once it loses its sheen from the moisture, toss the potatoes with the remaining salt, pepper, and oil.

Place the potatoes, skin side down, on a baking sheet (you don’t need to line it or anything – this way you can get the spuds super-crispy). Bake in the hot oven (450 degrees) for 15~20 minutes, until they whistle and puff (literally) and get, of course, super-crispy.

Ingredients for the salad:

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves torn, tender stems chopped, and tough stems discarded

20 almonds, toasted and chopped

1 handful sultana raisins

2 tbsp grainy mustard

big splash, 4-5 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

To assemble the salad, whisk together the mustard and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Toss together the roasted eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, parsley, almonds and raisins in a large salad bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over and toss to combine.

Serve with a fresh baguette or a steak for a rounded meal, or just have it all by itself, which is the way I have mine.

Enjoy!

Imagine in Purple

I doubt I’m getting to that age where I have the seniority to say “as you get older you find that every year passes you by so quickly that they blend into one another”. Nor am I quite so busy to say that the thin silver line between each day has disappeared. But there’s one thing I can say, because I believe that time cannot be quantified according to any device except for perhaps by one’s heart:

time took itself to sloth from one point to the next, which was back in August when lunch between mother and daughter was a three-hour affair that would take place under impromptu patches of flowery shade over crostinis and blueberry compote.

but then, like a child, it grew as an exponential function.

So here we are, in the very belly of November, and every man I see sports some sort of awkward hybrid between grubble and moustache on their face. In all honesty, the only possible thing I can connect that – whatever that is, movember? – to would be that stage when a cute fuzzy baby chicken overnight becomes this grotesque, almost reptilian creature with non-uniform spikes protruding from their pores. But for the cause behind the hairiness I think I can go another two weeks.

Afterall, two weeks feels to me like three days now.  And eggplants are running exponentially faster away from me. My mind, however, still dreams in purple – the deep, royal, amethyst sort of purple.

Best friend, math has not done so much to take away my imagination. I can still dream up a thousand and one ways to cook a deep, royal, amethyst purple giant of an egg. Here’s 1/1001 of the ways.

“How can people say

they don’t eat eggplant

when God loves the color

and the French love the name?

I don’t understand.”

– Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet

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Ingredients for the candied eggplant with akamiso glaze:

3 tbsp red miso

2 tbsp buckwheat honey, regular will do

1 tbsp mirin, or rice wine

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 large round eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 thinly sliced green onions, to garnish

To make the candied eggplant, preheat the oven to 415 degrees F with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush it with some mild vegetable oil such as grape seed or avocado.

Stir together the miso, honey, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Toss the diced eggplant in the miso glaze to coat evenly and spread the eggplant onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 25~30 minutes, or until the eggplant becomes caramelized and very tender. Transfer to a plate and garnish with the sliced green onions, and a thin drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.

Enjoy!

Aubergine

From lavishly spiced curries to thick creamy baba ganoush, eggplant concoctions never fail to deliver. But that’s exactly the problem, they’re eggplant dishes; they rely on the humble eggplant, too modest to stand up for itself, while giving it very little credit. One almost never hears the phrase “Oh, the eggplant is simply sublime”, instead, we always seem to remark how well the eggplant is spiced, or more degrading, how smoothly it’s been pureed.

Why can’t eggplant just be a concept of its own?                                   (reference to R. Moon)

Here I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Amelia of Simple Provisions for sharing a salad was the answer to my purplish woes.

Oh the eggplant is simply sublime!

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Ingredients for the eggplant salad:

2 large Chinese egglant (or Japanese, if certain political strains bother you), diced

100 ml olive or grape seed oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup seedless grapes, washed and pat dry

one generous handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted

2 cups chopped Italian parsley

1~2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, to taste

To make the caramelized eggplant, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the oil and season very generously. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkle on the grapes, then continue baking for another 10~15 minutes, or until the eggplant becomes deeply golden.

Combine the eggplant mixture with all the remaining ingredients, check the seasoning – it should be very harmonious, with smoky notes from the pine nuts, a mellow sweetness from the grapes, hints of light acidity and dark molasses from the balsamic, a burst of green freshness from the parsley and, well, the eggplant that’s too good for words.

Serve warm as a light lunch with some french baguette, or as a first course.

Enjoy!