Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Middle Eastern Summer Night's Dream

I forgot to mention, in my June 27th post about our new terraced vegetable garden, that three grapevines my wife planted by the back fence several years ago are beginning to flourish. Not only are they showing early signs of sending grapes out at last, but their leaves are spectacular. The time has come to begin pruning and training them. Lately, my wife has been clipping a few leaves to make dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Eventually, I imagine a pergola of some sort, with bunches of ripe grapes dangling within reach for easy picking.

I just returned last night from Summerfest 2011, a vegan festival near Pittsburgh, where I presented a cooking demo of my some of my recipes. Soon after I got into the house, a monumental thunderstorm surrounded the mountainside, with nonstop lightning the likes of which none of us had ever seen. The two-story front of the house is all windows, and we sat in the dark for about twenty minutes, watching the lightshow unfold as the storm moved eastward. This morning, the garden was lush, emerald green, and very, very happy. So was I, if you want to know the truth. I'm still happy. I've decided to make a habit of it.

Egyptian Eggplant, Hummus, and Dolmades
After a long day in unusually muggy heat for Colorado, we were ready for a light, hot weather meal. I happened to have a couple of eggplants, so I made "Egyptian Eggplant," from Speed Vegan, and some hummus. My wife made her dolmades, and just like that, we had a simple Middle Eastern spread. We sat on the deck and ate, gazing at the verdant summer landscape below us as the light faded. What a beautiful life!

Here is the recipe from the book:

Egyptian Eggplant
Makes 4 servings
I once worked for an Egyptian gentleman who professed a passionate hatred of garlic, but he adored this dish. I learned a number of Egyptian dishes to please his palate, most of them loaded with garlic. He loved them all. Such is the power of delicious food—like love, it can overcome prejudice and hatred.

2 eggplants
4 cloves peeled garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toast points or flatbread

Preheat a grill (preferably an outdoor charcoal grill). Put the whole eggplants on the hot grill and cook, turning often, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are soft and charred all over.
         While the eggplants are cooking, mash the garlic with the salt in a mortar to form a mushy paste. Add the sesame seeds and mash lightly. Add the olive oil and mash everything together. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Set aside until the eggplants are done.
         Transfer the eggplants to a large plate or cutting board and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh, avoiding as much of the charred skin as possible (some will get into the mix, but that’s okay—it will add a nice flavor), and put it in a bowl. Add the reserved garlic mixture. Stir well, mashing any large pieces of eggplant. Serve with toast points or flatbread.


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