Continuing my series on how to cook with the items that may be in your CSA share. This week is Eggplant. I have to be honest. I love vegetables but I really have a hard time with Eggplant. My introduction to them was as a kid and having them thickly sliced, breaded, and fried. I remember them not having much of a flavor other than fried and a mushy texture with a skin. Even though I see them prepared a variety of ways now, I still have that memory and tend to skip them in the market or on a menu.
This week, I received an Eggplant in my CSA. I sort of sighed and thought, what should I do with this. No one in my family likes them either or could name a preparation they enjoyed that I could maybe mimic. I decided to do something where Eggplant wasn't the star of the meal or dish but still would be something we would eat. Enter my secret weapon, the coulis!
You've probably seen coulis on menus and wondered what it was or thought it was only meant for desserts (think raspberry coulis on a cheesecake). The simplest description of a coulis is a puree of vegetables or fruit that is packed with flavor to give a dish a big kick or can be used to add a bit of flair. They can be sweet or savory. I love using coulis to give a concentrated flavor to a dish that needs just a little bit more especially on vegetable dishes. Keeping one vegetable out of the dish, then creating this powerful sauce to drizzle on top is just heavenly and your guests will love it. Coulis are pretty easy to make. And, you can serve it as a sauce or create a bit of visual flair by drizzling, dotting, swishing it on your plates!
The recipe I use often and included below is for a red pepper coulis. I use red peppers all the time to get that same sweet and acidic flavor of tomatoes. This coulis has the sweet flavor of the red pepper and by fire roasting the peppers beforehand, adds that bit of smokey flavor.
Now that I had my coulis, I was back to my Eggplant. I decided a Mediterranean preparation sounded interesting. I incorporated some other vegetables and added some soft polenta. Drizzle my red pepper coulis on top and I had just the dish to enjoy my Eggplant. This dish can be a main dish for vegetarians or add roasted chicken breast or fish for meat eaters.
Red Pepper Coulis
2 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp garlic, minced 2 tbsp shallot, small dice 1 lb red bell pepper 1 tbsp red wine vinegar ½ cup chicken stock salt to taste pepper to taste
On an open burner, roast the whole red peppers until the skin darkens and prunes. Cover with saran wrap and let cool. Peel off skin, julienne peppers and reserve with liquid from the peppers.
Heat the oil and saute the garlic and shallot until translucent, without browning.
Add the red pepper and saute until tender.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar.
Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Puree in a blender or food processor. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Soft Polenta Serves 4
5 cups chicken broth 1 ½ tsp salt 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal 2 tbsp unsalted butter ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Bring the broth to a boil in a heavy saucepan and add the salt.
To keep the polenta from becoming lumpy, add the cornmeal to the boiling broth very gradually, throwing in a few pinches to start and then adding it in a very thing stream, stirring constantly with a whisk until all has been added. Simmer, stirring often, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot but is still thin enough to fall from the spoon, about 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and blend in the butter and the cheese, if using. Serve at once as soft polenta.
assorted vegetables like eggplant, asparagus, peppers (poblano, anaheim, yellow, etc.), tomatoes, red onions, portobello mushrooms garlic cloves, peeled only olive oil salt to taste pepper to taste fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the vegetables into med-large dice and place in a large bowl.
Toss vegetables and garlic cloves with a drizzling of olive oil. Just enough to coat.
Season with salt, pepper, and add some fresh oregano and toss to coat the vegetables.
Place vegetables on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Roast the vegetables until done about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Place a bit of soft polenta on each plate. Top with a bit of the roasted vegetable mixture. Finally, drizzle the red pepper coulis on top. Serve any extra coulis for extra drizzling!