Hotter than July

by Brittany Grace

An afternoon jaunt in Jasper, Ga

It’s that time of year again.

Sweltering.  You know, so hot that everything around you seems like it could reverberate.

All life starts to swell up and internalize the heat. The evidence is everywhere: in the sunny colors of the flora, in the sweaty, half dressed bodies of bicyclists making their way through concrete jungle, in the rotund tomatoes and fleshy peaches at market. Despite (or maybe because?) of the sweat and the haze, something about this month seems so…well, sexy. 

It is the time of year when I most enjoy listening to this and this. 

While reading this.

And wearing a dress made of this.

It’s the time of year when I walk here.

The perfect time of year to eat and drink sweet, delightfully pink watermelon.

Like this gentleman.

And a great time to utilize a bounty of eggplant.

The eggplant that is proliferating the markets right now was calling my name a couple of weeks ago. So purple, so perfect looking, I wanted to buy all of it. What to do with a bounty of eggplant? Roasting, sure. Parmesan, or breaded, eh (too pedestrian).

Baba ganoush? Yes! I had never made baba before. The problem with making baba is many whole eggplants do not yield a lot of final product. I grilled and roasted 15 pounds of eggplant and only got a few quarts of baba ganoush out of it. Despite the inefficiency, that stuff is goooood. Made with the same ingredients that are used to make hummus – except the beans – baba ganoush is a refreshing treat with lots of taste and nutrients (most notably, fiber).

It’s also a typical Lebanese and Egyptian dish that has made its way into American tastes in the past decade or so. Hmm. A middle eastern dish that conjures up images of an Egyptian vacation pre-revolution? Definitely sexy.

On an American note: Did you know Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplant to the U.S.? Neither did I.

What you need:

2 lbs of eggplant (at least)

Salt

Olive oil

Tahini (sesame paste) about 2 tbs.

Cumin, about 1.5 tbs

Garlic, chopped fine (how many cloves is up to you and your taste)

Juice from a few lemons (I like lots of lemon)

Half bunch of parsley, chopped fine

Olives (optional).

What to do:

Split the eggplant lengthwise and score. (Make little diagonal incisions so it can cook evenly and quickly).

Drizzle with olive oil and grill over med-high heat for a few minutes, until skin turns slightly brown and the eggplant meat starts to blacken along the score lines.

Take off the grill, place in bowl, and toss with salt and more olive oil. This vegetable loves oil, so don’t be afraid of using it liberally. Place the eggplant, skin up (this will promote even cooking), into a shallow pan, and put into a preheated oven set at 350 degrees.

The eggplant may take a while to roast –  you know it’s done when the skin begins to deflate a little, and when you press it with your hand and it gives readily. If the skin still has whitish looking parts, it’s not ready.

When you take the eggplant from the oven, let cool. Then hold at one end and peel the skin in one fell swoop, or if you’re having some difficulty, use a spoon to scrape the “meat” from the skin; put meat into a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and use a fork to mash the mixture until it forms a smooth consistency – or transfer in batches to your food processor and blend until creamy.

Serve with olives and your favorite pita.

Enjoy!

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