Friday, June 5, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Eggplant Dip

The Good:

Everyone has their Happy Place and mine is Whole Foods. Everything in that place glistens. Blood-red cherries, plump heirloom tomatoes, fragrant parcels of basil and rosemary...I am seduced every time. And don't even get me started on the fish counter. Suffice it to say that sashimi grade tuna makes my heart pound almost as much as Daniel Craig.

Have you ever seen a grouchy Whole Foods employee? Me neither. They're always cheerful and patient and happy to chat about the pros/cons of the English Stilton vs the Maytag Blue. I do not know for certain, but I suspect the break room in Whole Foods is equipped with a valium salt lick. Whole Foods employees are blissed out.

Even the huge-ass bill and the ugly chaos that is the Boulder Whole Foods parking lot fail to sour me on the place. But really, there is no more frightening place than that parking lot. If there's any place I'm going to get my ass handed to me on a platter, it's that parking lot. Even with the extra spaces they added.

After wandering around dreamily for at least an hour, I checked out with a big old jar of tahini paste and some adorable aubergines and a big hunk of parm-reggiano and the Duel of the Eggplant Dips was on.

The Bad:

I washed the eggplants, pricked them several times with a fork and began making these two recipes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Bittman claims that roasting the eggplant makes all the difference, and he's a veggie-savvy guy, so I popped them into my 500 degree oven and waited. My not-very-clean 500 degree oven, I might add. Which is a big mistake.

Note to Self: do not cook anything in a rather dirty oven at 500 degrees unless you disable the smoke alarm.

After opening all the windows and disabling said smoke alarm, I had some nicely blistered eggplant. I took half the batch, chopped it finely, mixed it with lemon, garlic, olive oil and parm-reg and seasoning was okay. The earth didn't move, but roasting did lend a nice smokiness and it was certainly edible. Didn't touch what we ate in Greece, though.

On to recipe 2. Popped remaining eggplant in the Cuisinart, threw in toasted pine nuts, lemon, garlic. Opened the can of tahini paste, which had completely separated, and began stirring...and stirring. Five minutes of stirring vigorously and finally I could add it to the mix and whir it all together. Add seasoning, plop it into a bowl and...

The Ugly:

Did you know that tahini paste is highly perishable and, if left on a shelf for months in a Whole Foods in the Rocky Mountains (where apparently nobody buys tahini paste so there's no turnover), becomes rancid?

Ask my garbage disposal, because that's where Recipe 2 ended up. At least I tried it before poisoning my guests.

I considered taking it over to my neighbor--the one who lets his schnauzer relieve himself in my front yard every morning--but I decided to be civil.

I'm done with eggplant. Good eggplant belongs to Greece, and I will be back.

ps: Asshole Neighbor with Perennially Pissing Schnauzer: I am not done with you.


  1. I want to love eggplant but I just can't. And tahini, I tried it once and never again, if I see it in a recipe, that recipe goes in the garbage!

  2. Oh, shoot. Well, I applaud your efforts and I also award you a safety award for not allowing the stove incident to escalate.

    I look forward to hearing more of the neighborly ranting. ;)

  3. We share the same happy place! I swear every time I walk into Whole Foods I hear the cheesy cartoon angel chorus "Ahhh" music play in my head.

    You need the tahini. I've had it go bad on me before too...not pretty.

  4. Is it bad that I like reading about your failures as much as reading about your successes?

    One of our local restaurant makes an amazing roasted eggplant sandwich. Divine.

  5. I made a fantastic eggplant dip out of a tiny little Greek cookbook once. Unfortunatly, all I can remember is roasting the eggland, scraping it out, and that the recipe called for plain, whole milk yogurt. (You already know how I get about Greek yogurt.)

  6. I'm like Paige, I want to love eggplant but I don't. I can't even explain it because I like everything.

    'bout the tahini . . . it'll keep forever in your frig. I know, because I swear I have one that is five years old.

  7. I applaud you for even giving that vegetable a chance. I am another dude that 'doesn't do eggplant'. Blech! That pretty purple skin doesn't fool me, I know what's on the inside is pure nastiness.

    Thanks for the tahini tip though. I keep meaning to have a go at making my own hommus and I think you've inspired me. I will be checking use by dates VERY carefully.

    To my shame, I think my oven may be in even worse shape than yours. I'm considering buying a new one rather than clean it. (Don't tell my mother)

  8. Leisa, if you make your own hummus, I will pee myself. Are you serious?

    Admission: I think I will buy a new oven, too. The one I have is too filthy to tackle, and don't be telling my mom, either.

    Phoo-D, I hear the angels, too :)

    Paige and Mayberry and hubby is with you 100%. American eggplant=wrong.