One Last Bake of the Season – Eggplant and Polow
Yesterday was cold, today was cold, the end of the week is supposed to go up to 80 degrees. So what better reason to fire up the oven one more time? And I just happened to have one of my favorite vegetables to oven roast, eggplant!
1. Pre-heat the broiler of your oven with a rack close to the top. As that’s heating take an eggplant and slice into rings. Optional: You may want to dose them with salt on both sides to draw a little of the bitterness out. Wash the salt off and dry them with a towel after about 10-15 minutes. Season the eggplant slices and coat with a thin layer of olive oil, both sides.
2. Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. When I made mine I wanted my eggplant to have little contact with the cooking surface so I rigged a sort of roasting rack out of rolled up aluminum foil. This prevented sticking and slightly better heat distribution, but is optional.
3. Check on your slices after 6-7 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned, give or take depending on your oven and the eggplant itself. If so, flip them over and let them go for another 5 minutes to brown the other side and soften the middle.
4. When you are satisfied with their doneness, sprinkle on some feta cheese and pimento peppers (i.e., what green olives are often stuffed with and readily available in jars.) Throw them back under the broiler for a minute or two if you want the feta to soften a little.
5. Garnish with some fresh herbs if you have some (parsley or mint = best; I had cilantro which also went well), some good olive oil and/or some cracked black pepper as you like it.
Polow is a transliteration of an Iranian rice dish, similar to pilaf in other countries. There are numerous types and interpretations on this basic dish, here is mine.
1. Cook basmati rice–brown or white–per instructions with a few shakes of turmeric or, if you’re a baller, some saffron threads (more traditional, but also more $$$.)
2. With the rice going dice plenty of onion (I made 1 cup of cooked rice and about 1/43 cup of onion), a couple garlic cloves–minced, a small handful/palmful of dried dates, the same of raisins and one tomato. Sautee the onion in olive oil over a medium-low heat until it turns translucent and begins to take on some color. Add the other ingredients to the pan and continue to cook until the fruits/veggies soften and meld flavors. Don’t rush this step. Let it cook slowly and gently.
More options! Polow is frequently made with meat. Diced chicken, beef or lamb can be cooked with or seperately with the onion. I kept things vegetarian and threw some TVP in with a little water–not flavorful but upped the protein content. Other common & tasty additions: pomegranate seeds, lentils, peas and nuts.
3. When your rice is done and your sautee mixture soft and happily married, combine with the rice along with about a level teaspoon of cinnamon or a little less than, plus some lime juice (about half a lime.) If you have garam masala spice that can be substituted for a deeper, more complex spice profile. I wanted to keep my flavors simple this time; choose what suits your mood.
4. Throw in some fresh herbs just before serving or over top of the dish. In Iran herbs are a crucial ingredient and many types are used if the many recipes I’ve found have anything to say. Parsley and mint again would be the best picks. I again used cilantro just because I had it, and it works splendidly. Basil, dill and tarragon would also be excellent. Just avoid stronger, pungent stuff like oregano and rosemary.