Do you know what these are?
No, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.
Here, let me give you a hint.
Look closely at the cap. Wouldn’t it look more at home on something darker, possibly in an aubergine color, slightly more ovoid and with fewer tiger stripes?
Yep, Now you’ve got it! They’re teeny, tiny orange eggplants! Solanum gilo to be exact.
Did anyone else catch To Market, To Market To Buy A Fat Pig on their local PBS station last night? Much like FloFab, I have been blown away by the produce this summer. Each fruit and vegetable I’ve bought in the past few months has been better than I can remember it ever having been.
I was seduced by some tiny Tristar strawberries yesterday so I bought them, washed them and left them out for my co-workers. Most eschewed them, opting instead for the farewell cake of a departing colleague, but one gentleman who had spent many, many years working the Paris beat took one and fell immediately into raptures, saying they tasted just like the fraises he remembers so fondly.
The time I’ve been spending at the market this summer has been as good for my soul as the veggies have been good for our stomachs. There’s magic to a market in the morning. Everyone’s still a little sleepy, there’s less hustlebustle, more elbow room, more time to stop and smell the roses and more time to have a nice chat.
That was one of my favorite points in To Market, To Market…, the reason people love their markets so much is the interaction they can have there that’s absent from a megamart, it’s the people element. A good conversation about food, whether with the farmer, or with the dude being picky about the condition of his fava bean pods, can leave me in a finer mood than any giant coffee in the morning.
So far this summer I’ve met a long lost friend of my mother’s, a goat cheese maker who was on the Columbia County Horse Bowl team (as was I) and a tomato farmer who shares the cheese his goat farming neighbor makes just for him.
But, enough about markets. If you’re coming here, you probably love them too. Let’s get back to the eggtoes.
I found them at the Union Square greenmarket last Friday at the same stand that had the Pimientos de Padron and near the guy with the baby artichokes. Here’s the thing. I love eggplant. All of them. I’ve never met one I didn’t like. The Boy on the other hand? Not so much.
On our first trip up to the Adirondacks three years ago, we arrived very, very late and very, very hungry. Apparently there was a lasagna, but all I remember is walking into the kitchen, giving my mom a hug and a kiss and then turning in horror to the counter where she had a huge sheet pan full of eggplant slices, slick with pesto and wrapped around chunks of mozzarella cheese. I let out a groan. Oh no, I thought, the Boy is never going to eat those! And yet eat them he did. With gusto no less.
I hoped we had turned a corner, and we had, of sorts. He still doesn’t love them, but he’ll play nicely when I bring home a bag of luminous, tiger-striped orbs and promise him couscous.
I didn’t quite know what to do with my eggtoes so I turned to Claudia. There are many eggplant recipes in her book, but most of them bring out the mucilaginous quality of the fruits that I so love and the Boy so hates. They also didn’t seem all that uniquely Middle Eastern.
What did seem unique, however, were the many recipes for stuffed eggplant, using lamb and all sorts of heady, exotic spices. Problem was, I had no ground lamb and was feeling monumentally lazy, so I concocted my own stuffing of Turmeric-scented reshteh and a melange of aromatics. The eggtoes cooked slowly in a luxurious sauce of heirloom tomatoes and baby artichokes perfumed with cinnamon and cloves while the couscous steamed.
Some of the ‘chokes were a little tough and the sauce kind of burnt to the bottom of the pan, but what survived was intensely delicious when mixed with the couscous. The aubergines were a little bitter, but the stuffing was out of this world.
They may not have been the best eggplants I’ve ever eaten, but they sure were the best eggtoes!
Head below the jump for the recipe for Stuffed Eggtoes With Couscous.
Stuffed Eggtoes With Couscous
prep time: 45 minutes ~ cooking time: about 1 1/2 hours
- 5 Turkish or Baby Eggplants per person, tops cut off, insides scooped out
- 1 cup Reshteh
- 1 Onion, minced
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- Olive Oil
- about 15 Pimientos de Padron (or any other sweet, flavorful chili), finely sliced
- 2 small Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Salt & Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Onion, sliced
- 6 cloves Garlc, sliced
- Olive Oil
- 1 pint of Heirloom Tomatoes, washed and quartered
- 6 Baby Artichokes, tough outer leaves removed, stems trimmed and quartered
- Ground Cloves
- juice of 1 Lemon
- about 1 cup Dry Vermouth
Heavily salt the inside of each eggplant and leave to drain upside down in a collander for at least 3o minutes.
Place a small knob of butter in a pan over medium heat and allow to melt. Add the reshteh and cook while stirring constantly until some of the noodles begin to brown. Carefully add enough hot water to cover, add salt to flavor and a heavy pinch of turmeric. Bring to a boil and cook a few minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside to cool.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a small sautée pan and add the onions. Cook until translucent and add the garlic and peppers. Cook until the peppers are softened and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and cayenne pepper if you chose. Cook until they disolve into the sauce, turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.
Heat a heavy glug of olive oil in the bottom of a couscoussiere or a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden. Turn the heat up and add the garlic, tomatoes and artichokes. Season with a healthy pinch of salt and a wee pinch of cinnamon and ground cloves. Stir to coat and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the vermouth and a glass of hot water. Bring to a boil and lower to a rolling simmer.
Prepare the couscous by placing the grains in a bowl. Sprinkle them a few times with water that drips off your fingers (say 4 or 5 times). Work the grains with your fingertips to work out any lumps and to assure that the water is distributed evenly into the grains. Tip them into the top of the couscoussiere or into a metal colander that fits snugly into the stock pot. Do not cover. Allow to cook 30 minutes
Mix the reshteh and aromatics together to form a filling. Wash the salt out of the eggplants and stuff each one with the pasta mixture, set aside.
After the couscous has cooked 30 minutes, carefully tip it out of the steamer and into a bowl. Stir the sauce and make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot, if it has become too concentrated and seems in danger of burning, add more water. Carefully lower the stuffed eggplants into the sauce.
Sprinkle the couscous with a healthy pinch of salt and more water. Stir with a wooden spoon to work out lumps and aerate the grains. Return the couscous to the steamer and place back onto the lower pot. Allow to cook an additional 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are up, turn the heat off. Tip the couscous back into the bowl and add a knob of butter or a glug of olive oil. Stir to incorporate.
To serve: Give each person a few eggtoes, a spoonful of the sauce and some couscous. Garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy!