Friday, September 30, 2011

Eggplant Stew

On my yogurt cake post, I mentioned the amazing eggplants I’ve been grateful to find here in Guatemala. Berenjena or planta de huevos are smaller then the average eggplants in the states. I love their intense purple color. When you slice into them, they have very little seeds and the taste is very sweet and firm, exactly like the ones I remembered as a kid.

The first time I ate an eggplant, I stood underneath my mom’s chin. My mom would slice them to be eaten raw, along with fresh lettuce leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers and bundles of fresh mint and cilantro. You’d take the fresh cut eggplant or vegetables and dip the slice into a highly pungent, fermented fish paste called mam (in vietnamese), then scoop some white rice into your mouth to enjoy the flavors of sweet and salty mixing inside chipmunk cheeks.

The times we would eat mam, I was petrified of the neighbors calling to report a gas leak. The smell was seriously toxic, yet so delicious and addictive. Little by little, I would finish the caramel colored mam, my father placing another slice of eggplant with his chopsticks inside my rice bowl.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s, that I started eating eggplant in its cooked form…italian veggie lasagna or middle eastern stews, a quick favorite. But the taste was always slightly bitter or watery.

Sadly (and fortunately for the neighbors here), I couldn’t find mam in our Guatemalan village, so instead, I made a delicious stew that made me happy and wiggle just the same. 

Enjoy y buen provecho.

Recipe for Eggplant Stew
2 medium eggplants, large dice
2 ripe tomatoes
1 zucchini, large dice
1 potato, small dice
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1 medium onion, large dice
olive oil
1/3 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
sea salt
mint or fresh picked basil (5-6 leaves), chopped

Fry garlic, onions and tomatoes with olive oil on medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions release their perfume. Mix potatoes and cook for several minutes. Add the eggplants and the rest of the vegetables; plop goes the cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low for 35-45 minutes. Season with a good dash of sea salt. Add mint or fresh basil to the pot and one last good stir.

Enjoy with crusty bread, rice or pasta.

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