Friday, June 20, 2008
Eggplant, Aubergine, Ca Tim, Nasu....
I love eggplants so much, I know how to ask for them in four languages. One of my great theories of language acquisition is that you only ever bother to learn how to say the things you're really, really motivated to get. That's why I can order in flawless Japanese at the Starbucks, but any other situation leaves me hopelessly frozen. My friend Evan is an example of the flip-side of this rule - he knows how to make requests for things he really, really wants to avoid, and thus knows how to say "no onions" four different ways in Korean, which I think is a bit of a life accomplishment.
I love eggplants cooked almost all ways, but one of my favourite uses for eggplant is baba ghanouj. I could eat whole tubs of the stuff back in Canada where it was dangerously located in the dip aisle of most major grocery stores.
Now, I probably wouldn't have developed such a keen interest in cooking if I hadn't shipped myself halfway across the earth, away from everything I had grown up with, and away from the convenience foods available in the average North American supermarket.
Suddenly, our first Christmas in Korea, we realized that eggnog would be completely unavailable to us. Eggnog! The bright red 1 litre cartons, appearing on shelves around November first, were a seasonal harbinger, getting us through November with hints of nutmeg and custard and the holiday festivities to come. What would we do without eggnog? Christmas simply wouldn't be Christmas without it.
Somewhere in the back of my mind niggled a thought. Was it possible...to make eggnog? Like, from scratch? Surely eggnog must predate milk in cartons? A quick Google search netted me this recipe, which seemed to involve an impossible amount of alcohol, making it just the thing for our first Christmas away from home. I make it every year now, at Christmas, and occasionally baffle and amaze other Canadians that it can be made from scratch. (People from other countries are usually baffled and amazed at its utter existence - who drinks raw eggs and milk for fun?)
Where am I going with this, you ask? Well, eventually it occurred to me that you could make, like, from scratch, all sorts of things that I used to buy already made from grocery stores. Like salad dressing, eggnog, guacamole, chip dip, mayonnaise, and...baba ghanouj.
There are lots of recipes on the net, but I rarely bother following one. I roast some Japanese eggplants - I usually char about 5 of them under my fish grill until the skins blister. Then I let them cool, and squash them up. Next I add a judicious squeeze of lemon juice, a glug of olive oil, salt and fresh crushed garlic to taste. If I have some on hand, I add about two tsp of sesame paste, but if I don't have it, I don't sweat it. Spread on bread, it's heavenly. I mentioned this method to some of my Japanese co-workers and they were intrigued. The next time I have some eggplants kicking around, I'm going to make some and bring it in for them, and see how they like it. Maybe I can start a baba ghanouj craze and eventually be able to buy it in the grocery store again!