Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Eggplant Saga: The House of Melanzana

In the last episode of the saga, the eggplant had found it's way to China. Not quite ready to leave Asia yet, I also made myself a recipe with a Japanese influence. In my quest for fabulous recipe ideas, I stumbled across Ashbury's Aubergines, a veritable treasure trove of eggplant recipes the likes of which ye have never seen. It was here that I discovered Soba Salad with Roasted Eggplant Dressing. I have used roasted eggplant as a sauce on pasta before, but usually giving it Italian spicing. This recipe was fresh and delightful. I added some green onions to this recipe as well because it seemed fitting. I only made half the recipe and it was still far too much for one person, and unlike the other recipes I've been making, would not freeze well.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, and despite buckwheat's misleading name, contain no gluten (be sure to read ingredients, not all soba noodles you buy in store are pure buckwheat!). Buckwheat is said to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and is high in dietary fiber. Buckwheat also contains large amounts of tryptophan, of which eggplant is also a good source.

Factoid: Not only is buckwheat not related to wheat, it is not even a grain at all, but a seed from a plant closely related to rhubarb!

Our journey is far from over, and now we explore the eggplant's westward trek in...

Part 3: The House of Melazana

The eggplant had made it's way to Arabic countries long ago, hence the ever popular baba ghanouj. It was by way of the Moors that the eggplant reached the Mediterranean countries around the 4th century A.D. The Italians believed the eggplant to be an aphrodisiac and it became known as the "Melanzana" or "Apple of Love", as did the Spanish, and so it quickly gained popularity there.

In honour of the Apple of Love I wanted to make a Mediterranean dish. I considered making vegan eggplant parmesan, but that's been done. So I thought to myself, "What's more Mediterranean than Paella?". Paella originated in Valencia, and it is considered the region's official dish. Traditional Paella Valencia contains rabbit and chicken, and no eggplant at all, but hey, this wouldn't be a vegan food blog without some radical re-working of recipes, now would it? And so I give you:

Vegan Eggplant Paella
1 small eggplant
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked beans (I used white kidney beans, but lima beans are more traditional)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp saffron
3 cups veggie broth
2 cups brown rice

Slice the eggplant in half vertically. Slice first half into long strips, chop the second half into smaller pieces. Saute eggplant, onion, and green pepper for a few minutes on medium-high heat. Add garlic, tomatoes, & beans. A few minutes later add spices, saute for 30 seconds, remove long strips of eggplant, then add broth & rice. Bring to a boil, reduce and cover. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Give it a stir, and arrange eggplant strips on top of rice mixture. Cover and simmer longer (add more water if necessary). Simmer until rice is fully cooked.
Despite the fact that it is not a very attractive dish, I do have to say that it was very enjoyable, very much a comfort food, meal-in-a-bowl. Since I haven't had actual paella in so long, I can't really say how much it tastes like it, but I certainly liked it, and that's worth a post I say.

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