The Simple Art Of Cooking: Excellent Eggplant

Plant and Sing, the annual festival of art and food, was held at the Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island on Columbus Day weekend. It was a weekend of music, singing, barn dancing, poetry and prose, children’s activities, planting and harvesting and so much more. I was invited to participate as a special guest of their literary program on Saturday, for a reading and tasting from my book Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End.

I’m delighted to be part of this weekend of community events which also includes a “Farm to Table” experience of local chefs using locally produced crops grown on the grounds of Sylvester Manor. A crossover of vegetables from summer to fall will be in the fields of Sylvester Manor at this time, such as eggplant, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, basil, beets and the last of summer tomatoes. The recipes below exhibit the timeliness of dishes to celebrate current cooking sensibilities.

LAYERED EGGPLANT WITH TOMATOES AND GARLIC
Before frying eggplant, coat the slices with beaten egg white, which acts as a shield and prevents the eggplant from soaking up the oil
Serves 6 to 8
2 medium eggplants, about 2 pounds
2 egg whites
Vegetable oil for frying
3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced about
1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 to 3 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
2 to 3 tablespoons chicken stock

1. Rinse and dry eggplants. Cut off root end and rub the two cut surfaces together to draw off indigestible juices. (The technique eliminates salting the eggplant). Cut eggplants into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.

2. Beat egg whites in a bowl until frothy and set aside. Pour oil about one-inch deep in a deep fryer or cast iron skillet and heat to 375 degrees.

3. Dip eggplant slices, one at a time, into the beaten egg white, shaking off excess. Put several slices at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides; drain on paper towels. Continue until all slices are done.

4. Lightly oil a baking-serving dish and alternate layers of eggplant with sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, garlic slivers and herbs. Can be done ahead to this point. Refrigerate covered as necessary.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Spoon chicken stock over the top layer to moisten just before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until hot. Cut into wedges for serving.

CARROT AND BUTTERNUT-SQUASH GRATIN
Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
3 cups peeled and sliced carrots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Dash Tabasco
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Coarsely chopped parsley for garnish

1. Prepare the vegetables for cooking and place in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to the edge of a boil then simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain the vegetables and transfer to bowl of food processor, fitted with steel knife, or a blender. Add butter and process or blend until combined but not pureed. Scrape down sides as necessary. Add broth and seasonings and process or blend to mix to a chunky puree. Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary.

2. Transfer contents to a lightly buttered gratin serving dish. Can be prepared up to one or two days ahead to this point. Refrigerate, covered.

3. When ready to serve bring the dish to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake gratin for 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Visit Silvia’s website at www.savoringthehamptons.com to read her blogs and more recipes.

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