Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eggplants Are Here, There, Everywhere

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eggplants Are Here, There, Everywhere

Article excerpt

YOU GO AWAY for a few days, and when you return the hordes descend. Hordes of junk mail, hordes of tomatoes and hordes of eggplant.

The arrival of the eggplant throng proved a theory proposed by an acquaintance of mine. Namely, the best way to get your garden to grow is to get out of town. It worked on my garden this year. After weeks of puttering at below-average pace, the garden went into a growth spurt the minute I left the city limits.

When I got back, bright red tomatoes and purple eggplant were weighing down the plants. There were some conventional-size tomatoes and one big beefsteak that was so ripe that I washed if off and wolfed it down right there in the garden.

But my favorite tomatoes were the small ones, the cherry tomatoes. First of all, the cherry tomatoes were compliant. They were easy to pick and made terrific snack food. One of my goals in life is to find the sweetest tomato on earth, and right now the cherry tomato is the leading contender for that title.

The eggplants, however, were as prickly as a tax assessor. They nicked in unexpected ways. Their gray, thorny collars pricked my son and me as we cut them off the plants, and they got in a few licks when we took them to the kitchen and washed them off. They looked smooth, but until I cut off their spiny collars, the eggplants were a feisty lot.

Once I subdued them, the question became how to fix them for supper. Ordinarily I simply slice the eggplant into slabs, coat the slabs with salt and olive oil and cook them on the barbecue grill. Cooking eggplant this way makes them taste somewhat like French fries, at least to me.

But since I had some spare time and plenty of eggplants on my hands, I looked around for a new way to cook the vegetable. I paged through cookbooks. I found the let-it-swim-in-Parmesan option, also called baked eggplant Parmesan; the clean-out-the-garden treatment known as ratatouille, and a variety of add-eggs-to-it recipes, which basically involved coating eggplant with an egg batter.

I had tried all these before. I was looking for a brave new treatment, a new, but not too challenging adventure in the world of eggplant. …

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