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.
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 and...it 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...
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.