Sunday, May 09, 2010

Eating my way through Mother's Day

Today was all about food, a fitting way to celebrate Mother’s Day. We had a family brunch at Founding Farmers, a wonderful “green” restaurant where I had crab Benedict and leek fried potatoes. I applaud them for letting us in without a reservation.

This afternoon I took another cooking class at Hill’s Kitchen -- Pizza Two Ways. We learned to make real authentic pizza dough, including throwing the dough frisbees up in the air. Then we learned how to cook the dough on a grill or in the oven, topped with any number of interesting toppings added sparingly. Instead of tomato sauce we used an olive-oil-basil-parsley drizzle that was quite flavorful. We each took home a bag of dough that will make at least two personal pizzas.

From class I hurried across town to a book talk at our temple by Tina Wasserman, the author of a new Jewish cookbook. I loved the way she connected food to history, at one point tracing the migration of Jews to the introduction of eggplant in various ethnic diets. Here are a few eggplant factoids:

-- In 711 C.E. when the Moors conquered Spain, many believed that the fruit of the eggplant was an aphrodisiac, and it was called berenganas, “apple of love,” in Spain.

-- When the Jews brought the eggplant to Italy, the Italians refused to eat it for over a hundred years because they believed this Jewish food would make you go mad, referring to it as mala insana, “crazy spirit.”

-- The English first saw the small, white, egg-shaped variety and coined the name “eggplant.”

-- Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplant in the new colonies in 1806. However, it was mostly used as an ornament until the 1950’s.

-- Eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable.

As with all occasions at Temple Micah, we shared food. I brought this Micah Cooks recipe, which just happened to feature the eggplant:

Eggplant Appetizer (Tunisian) 
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, or as needed 
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 lg. eggplant, peeled, cut into 1" cubes
3 T tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup small green pitted olives (with pimiento)
1 - 6 oz. jar of marinated artichokes, drained and cut into 2 - 3 smaller pieces
Pinch of tarragon, basil, or oregano (use only one kind of herb)
Pinch of red pepper flakes 

In large skillet, saute onion and garlic in some of the oil with salt until soft and translucent, about 5 - 8 minutes.

Add eggplant cubes, stir to coat well in oil in the pan, cover. Cook until the eggplant is very soft and well broken down, about 15 -18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add small amount of olive oil as needed to keep eggplant from sticking.

Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar and heat to the boiling point. Add the olives and remove from heat.

Stir in the artichoke hearts, then cool to room temperature. If using fresh herbs, add the herbs when it is at room temperature. If using dried herbs, add along with the artichoke hearts. Once cooled to room temperature, taste to adjust seasoning as needed. Can be served cold or room temp.
Plan to serve on baguette slices or something sturdy, as it is quite thick with lots of texture. Can be made in advance and stored in refrigerator. 


Blogger LiLu said...

Eggplant is a fruit?!

And all my life I've made fun of people who didn't know that about tomatoes. Karma... :-)

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like your kind of day, indeed, Barbara (esp. if there was some music in there!) -- very sweet!


1:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

LiLu -- I think it's something about seeds that distinguishes fruits and vegetables.

Anon -- I had an hour after brunch to play music with my friend Deborah. My children gave me what looks to be a fascinating book on the history of modern music: "The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century" by Alex Ross.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What a wonderfully delicious Mother's Day! I've had a fruit/veggie discussion with book club friends all day - did you know that the Supreme Court declared tomato a veggie on this date back in 1893? Crazy, huh?

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That book by Alex Ross is in my stack, waiting to be read! It'll be fun to compare notes (pun intended).


10:44 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

hmm, interesting.
The Italian word for eggplant is melanzana. Sounds a bit like mala insana.
Your pizzas look DELISH!
Happy Mother's Day Barbara

6:36 PM  

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