Friday, August 31, 2007

Dispatch from Vacation: Italian Heirloom Eggplants

I think since a humble eggplant took out a Top Chef contender in the Identify the Ingredient Quickfire Challenge, it can qualify as unusual enough for its own entry. Plus, I'm on vaycay, and it's the only thing I have a photo of, so, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Italian Heirloom Eggplant of Unknown Proper Name!

Italian Heirloom Eggplant from Stokes Farm, Union Square Greenmarket

(A little aside here for me to say that since this was snapped my SigOth, the Boy Genius of all things technological, has shown me how to take proper close-up photos that are neither blurry nor blown out by the flash. Much hotter food porn money shots starting next post. Promise.)

When I first saw them, I thought they were the same as the blaze orange colored Turkish eggplants I had bought from a stand at the Abingdon Square Greenmarket a few weeks ago, but the woman (Stokes Farm again) said that they were heirloom Italian. I looked again and realized that the Turkish had been quite round and smooth, whereas these were the shape of smallish pears with vertical ridges. When I cut them open, the flesh was dense for an eggplant, and very white with barely discernible seeds.

Since I was trying to wrap some things up for work and pack while tidying up to make the apartment presentable for our fish-sitter, I just halved and cut them into 1/2 inch slices to toss into a big ratatouille-like stew I made to use up all the gorgeous veggies I couldn't resist buying at Union Square even though I knew I was leaving town and couldn't possibly eat them all. I am helpless in the face of itty bitty baby squash and big busty August tomatoes. Completely, utterly without help.

As it turned out, that was far from the ideal use for this variety. By the time the other veggies were done, the flesh had completely melted into the stew, leaving behind nothing but surprisingly tough strips of skin. Plus, it didn't take advantage of the spectacular presentation potential of that flame colored skin. If they still have them when I get home, I'll try stuffing them and report back.

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