Sunday, November 05, 2006

Do As I Don't

I am so tired. How tired? So tired that I am afraid I might fall asleep on my laptop and damage it somehow, which would just about kill me. Tiredness for me glides right into laziness. If there is something I don’t absolutely have to do (for fear of swift retribution), you can be sure I will not do it. My accumulating dishes and the general war zone appearance of my apartment are clear evidence of my new-found laziness.

I am the queen of shortcuts these days (oh how my hair hates me. My hair is a shortcut, I am afraid). I took a few shortcuts that I now wish I hadn’t while making dinner. It was good but it could have been better. It wasn’t in scary in-between land but it was close. To be honest, I was excited enough just to have dinner that didn't consist of chips and salsa. Food shouldn't be triangular.

I got another gorgeous eggplant in my last Boston Organics box. Lacking the energy to do anything involved with the eggplant (or my hair, apparently) I popped it in the oven whole to roast while I… take a guess… worked. I remembered about it about an hour and a half later, and it was just right – wrinkled, collapsed, and smelling rich (I could go places with that but I am, err, too tired). I wish I had taken a picture of the roasted and collapsed eggplant but sadly, that activity fell under the category of shortcut. It sat in the refrigerator till I was ready for it.

I wanted to make something resembling a Georgian (the country, not the state) dish that is frequently on the menu at Russian restaurants. I unfortunately cannot remember what it’s called – any family member reading this is welcome to chime in. Its two main ingredients are eggplant and walnuts, all mushed up together into a sort of spread or cold salad. Curious aside – a “salad” in Russia/Georgia is something quite different from the standard American lettuce-based mix. It’s most often something that is cooked and served cold, frequently drowning in mayonnaise.

I set out to create my version of this Georgian mystery-salad with roasted eggplant, cilantro, walnuts, and lemon juice. When it came time to mush up the eggplant, the thought of pulling out my (beautiful, gorgeous, beloved… and heavy) 11 cup food processor was immediately vetoed. Instead, I used a fork to break up the roasted eggplant. That worked well enough, but the salad would have been better were the eggplant smoother. Mine was still a bit on the chunky side.

I had beautiful raw walnut halves from Trader Joe’s (my sincerest condolences to all those that have to live without TJ's). I briefly contemplated roasting them but that sounded like work, so I didn’t. Should have though! I could hardly taste the walnuts in the final product. I forgot how much flavor roasting brings out in nuts.
Despite my shortcuts, I was pretty happy with the result. Lemon and cilantro added freshness to the rich and slightly smoky eggplant and it was all smoothed out with olive oil.

I had this salad, dip, or mush concoction with the most perfect bread from the most perfect grocery store in Watertown. Russo’s is possibly better than Whole Foods for produce, if that’s even possible. I will make a point of taking pictures of it (and possibly of the many posh-looking people that shop there) next time I go. Ok, so Watertown is nasty and scary (in parts). I recommend going with a friend. And a cell phone.

Eggplant and Walnut “Salad”
Do as I didn’t – roast the walnuts and puree the eggplant. Or not.

1 medium eggplant
¼ cup toasted, roughly chopped walnuts
¼ packed cup roughly chopped cilantro
handful of chopped chives
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of sugar (it must be genetic. My Mom told me that the majority of Jewish food has sugar in it somewhere).
salt and pepper

1) Smear eggplant with a little bit of olive oil, poke a few holes in the skin to allow vapor to escape, and roast at 375F for about an hour, or until its soft and wrinkly, and allow to cool.
2) Scoop the flesh out of the eggplant and mush with a fork (or a food processor, if you are so inclined and energized).
3) Mix in the rest of the ingredients.
4) Nap, if possible. That may have just been me though.

P.S. Entirely off the topic of food (just this once, I promise): I have come to the realization that I *hate* statistics with the fire of a thousand suns. Mr. Bonferroni can take his Multiple Comparisons Test and shove it where those suns will never shine. Oh, and! Has anyone ever noticed that Microsoft Excel rhymes with HELL?
Ok. I am done now.


amanda said...

anna, you had me with your picture. chunky or not, that just looks good. hmm... maybe i can get tyler to eat eggplant if i serve it too him in a dip where he won't even know he's eating it. :-P sad to have to use trickry like you do with children. i know what you mean about tiredness and lazyness. man, we sure don't post like we used to because of those two things....and btw, F*&% Microsoft.

JC said...

Sorry you're so tired. I can relate somewhat, although I think you're working much harder than I am! That eggplant salad sounds really good. It's another thing that is also new to me, I'm learning so much here!

ben said...

Don't be "Angry Anna!" Be happy, hungry Anna.

Great post, besides your dissing of statistics. Boo to you.

Anna said...

Amanda - Why do so many people not like eggplant? It's one of my favorite things ever. I am so glad you feel my pain with Excel. It makes me want to smoke crack. I have graduated (ha) into GraphPad Prism and am much happier for it.

JC - I work like mad, but in spurts. I can't maintain this pace for very much longer.
I think I eat weird things, which explains why many haven't heard of them. It has less to do with learning from me, and more with me just being generally weird... as in eating peanuts with the shell still on.

Dear Ben: angry, happy, and hungry are in no way mutually exclusive. I experience all three at the same time at least 5 times a day. Well, mostly just the hungry. Nothing in this world can make me hate statistics less... Unless you want to do it all for me. Wait. Do you actually enjoy statistics? If so, I can keep you endlessly entertained. Just let me know. I am there for you.

atp said...

That sounds great - similar to Baba Ganoush. My mum used to make this eggplant bake thing when I was little and I hated it! I think it's quite can be slightly sour tasting and slimy in texture if you're not careful. I love it now, it's just sadly misunderstood, which is why I made it my mission to cook it for people who say they hate it. They're easily swayed in my experience.

Ben said...

Yeah, eggplant is awesome. My mom cooks this fried eggplant dish that is wicked awesome. I your dish sounds pretty wicked awesome too.

PS - I would be glad to do your statistical analysis...except for one problem...I am pretty bad at it. If you don't mind getting the wrong answer, I would gladly do it for you.

michelle said...

mmm...the combination of those ingredients sounds delectable - toasted walnuts and pureed eggplant or no. hang in there with all the work - i know what that's like. i think my first year of grad school i ate only things that could be microwaved and/or took less than five minutes to make...most of which came out of a box!

Anna said...

AtP - eggplant is misunderstood! Most of the people I know are so absurdly squeamish about unfamilar food that I have given up trying to sway them. I lack the patience. Nothing like seeing a grown man cower before a raw tomato.

Ben - Your Mom sounds like a really great cook! She should come visit me. Alright, you can come too :)

Michelle - I miss real food! I should have a little more time now to cook, and I can't wait.

Ben said...

Hmm, I guess I could go cold does it get in the winter? If I do go visit, here is the itinerary:
1) Taco Bell
2) Chinese Restraunt
3) Froo Froo place
4) Elective
5) Elective