Eggplant for days!

Last week, I bought one tiny (fist-sized) speckled-y eggplant that had been raised not far from here, and came home and sifted through cookbooks looking for a simple way to make it taste delicious.  I love eggplant, but I have grown weary of experimentation with it. One thing that frustrates me a lot as a young person cooking only for herself is that I don’t have a lot of extraneous ingredients just hanging out. With eggplant, because it gets so much of its flavor from the flavors you put near it, I hesitate to leave out something because I don’t have it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a recipe that would work….but then I did!

I was doubly excited because this recipe is from a cookbook I have had for a long time, but never used, The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, by Anna Thomas. I have a used copy my mom bought me, for $1 according to the front page. The cover is so beautiful and bohemian, and on that same front page is a magical inscription:

“Let the wind of the spirit blow between your shores.

               The great oaks in the forest

        Do not grow in each other’s shade.”

“O for a friend to mingle all his soul with mine.”

for Carolyn

                  on the day which saw her birth

                                                       Daniel

I have taken this book with me many places, and read that inscription over and over again. It is always talking about a different part of my life, and I appreciate that. It pains me to think what may have brought Carolyn to part with it.

The recipe is a spanish “tortilla,” which I ate many times in tiny kitchens throughout the town of Tarbes, France, with my Spanish friend Marta standing by, loudly telling us how it’s done. I’d never made one myself, though. This was perfect because it was very simple, quick, and would last well. I changed the proportions just slightly, because I didn’t have the right number of eggs. I ate it with an improvised salad–carrot tops and cucumbers in a light vinaigrette. I had no lettuce, and lots of beauitful looking greens on top of my carrots, so I decided to try it. It was actually….quite tasty! Next time, I would put the dressing on about 15 minutes before I was going to eat it, so that the carrot tops would soften up just a little bit. Now that’s a good way to get some extra value out of food–I had another vegetable I didn’t even know about!

{How I ate the leftovers}
I only ate a quarter of this tortilla, so I saved the rest. Each day this week, I pulled two frozen pieces of baguette out of the freezer (more on this later), slapped another quarter of the tortilla between it, and put it away for lunch. By the time noon rolled around, the bread had thawed, and the oil from the omellete had soaked into the bread just slightly. It mad e a really delicious sandwich, and if you had roasted red peppers, bacon, tomato, arugulua, feta, goat cheese….or any number of other accompaniments to add, it could turn out pretty darn fancy!

Eggplant Tortilla

from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two, by Anna Thomas. Copyright 1978. 269 and 270.

I changed the proportions slightly on mine, and made a couple other small adjustments. See below for details.

3 T olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 large onion, chopped (I used red, the book doesn’t specify)

2 1/2 c small eggplant, cut in 1/4 inch dice

1 tsp lemon juice

salt to taste

pepper to taste

5 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet [I used an 9-inch pan] and add the garlic, onions, and eggplant. Saute the vegetables, stirring often, until the onions are transparent and the eggplant tender. Season with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Beat the eggs lightly, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Pour the beaten eggs over the eggplant mixture in the pan and spread it around evenly. The eggs should barely cover all the eggplant.

Cover the pan and turn down the flame. Cook over very low heat until the tortilla is firm on top [I think this took almost 30 minutes for me]. Gently slide a spatula around the edges and underneath it to be sure it is not sticking. Take a large plate and turn it upside down, placing it over the skillet like a lid. Holding the plate in place, overturn the skillet.

Slide the tortilla from the plate back into the pan and allow it to brown on the other side for a few minutes. Employing the same technique, flip the tortilla back onto a large plate for serving.

The tortilla may be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature. One of the more convenient aspects of Spanish tortillas is that they really are delicious at any temperature.

Serves 3 to 4.

I used 2 T olive oil, 1 garlic clove, about 1/2 an onion, 2 c eggplant and 2 eggs. I didn’t have a lemon, so I left that out ( amazing considering my opening comments). I have a little thyme growing in a pot, so I grabbed a sprig of it and threw the leaves in, which was a tasty addition. Lots of other herbs would have worked great, too, I’d imagine.

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