They used to say that every Israeli housewife knew at least 50 ways to prepare eggplant. Indeed, in the early years of the Jewish state, eggplant was abundant, relatively cheap and often used as a meat substitute.
Well, eggplants truly are incredibly malleable and versatile, and here are just a few ideas to use those majestic, purple vegetables, which are like no others.
Halved Eggplant With Tahini
2 whole eggplants
prepared tahini with garlic
Preheat oven to 375˚. Pierce whole eggplants at least halfway through five times per side.
Roast the eggplant until tender and charred, about 20 minutes. Let cool and cut in half lengthwise. Place on a platter and fill each half with garlic-rich tahini; sprinkle with parsley.
Israeli Vegetarian Chopped Liver
There are many versions of vegetarian chopped liver: Some use green beans and/or walnuts and/or mushrooms. This simple one uses eggplants.
2 medium eggplants
2 onions, chopped
1⁄4 cup canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped cilantro and/or parsley
Cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt and place in a colander and leave for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, hard-boil eggs. Rinse under cold running water and shell. Cut roughly into about thirds.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Saute onions until brown. Add cubed eggplant and garlic and continue to saute until eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes.
Place the eggplant-onion mixture into the food processor. Add the eggs, salt and pepper and pulse until a coarse mixture is formed.
Chill until use. Garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley.
Baba Ghanoush is a delicious smoky dip that is often sold laden with mayonnaise. You can make your own version with less mayo, but do try this tahini-based version.
2 large eggplants
1⁄2 cup tahini, plus more as needed
5 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Prick the surface of each eggplant several times with a knife.
On a grill, broiler or a gas stove top, char the eggplant for 10 to 15 minutes on all sides. Let cool; carefully scrape inner flesh off of peel and discard skin.
Mash the eggplant to a paste with a fork or in a food processor. Mix in tahini, garlic and lemon juice.
Correct seasoning to your taste; it may need more tahini or lemon juice. Sprinkle with parsley.
Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
Since we got our new panini press, my husband and I have been really getting into the variety of tastes you can come up with using it, thereby elevating a “sandwich” to a higher state of being.
2 Tbsps. mayonnaise (regular or low-fat)
2 tsps. dried oregano
2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant, thinly sliced
1⁄2 tsp. granulated garlic
8 slices bread
8 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese
1⁄3 cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers
1 onion, sliced
Preheat panini grill.
Combine mayonnaise and oregano in a small bowl. Using 1 tablespoon oil, lightly brush both sides of eggplant and sprinkle each slice with granulated garlic. Brush one side of each slice of bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
Grill the eggplant slices for 6 minutes, turn with a spatula and top with cheese. Continue grilling until the eggplant is tender and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes more. Carefully remove eggplant from grill and set aside.
Toast the bread in the grill, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
To assemble sandwiches: Spread mayonnaise-oregano on four slices of bread. Top with the cheesy eggplant, red peppers, onion and the remaining slices of bread. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected] .