Monday, August 6, 2012
I love it when house guests come bearing meat. Delicate soaps and embroidered hand towels are nice, I guess, but tender pork medallions are so much better.
Last weekend Jane came with her cooler chock full. Not only did she pick up the afore-mentioned pork medallions, but also a fully boned rabbit as well as four perfect lamb burgers from Eataly.
The pork and rabbit got marinated (olive oil, garlic and rosemary) sprinkled with Dario Cecchini’s Profumo del Chianti (basically crack for meat) and grilled for Saturday dinner.
By Sunday lunch all that was left were the lamb burgers. Grilling was out of the questions since it was way too hot, so I decided to just cook them quickly in a griddle pan on top of the stove.
While the pork and the rabbit had received straightforward central Italian seasonings the day before, the lamb burgers inspired a different treatment. If it had been a whole piece of lamb, it would have been a different story, but ground lamb is so not an Italian thing. First of all, most lambs are butchered much too small to even think about prying off enough meat to make it worth while. The whole ground lamb thing is much more middle eastern, where I guess the lambs are left to become more sheepish, and so have much more meat on their bones. (correct me if I’m wrong here you middle eastern experts)
So anyway, the burgers got dusted with a liberal dose of cumin and coriander before hitting the pan.
Once I had decided on a theme, the side dish came easily: eggplant salad. But not of the baba ganoush or Greek melitzanosalata variety. Although I’m not anti-mush, and love both these dishes, they have always seemed more dip than salad to me. And I definitely wanted something firm to the bite, with enough freshness to really call it a salad.
The eggplants got cut into chunky logs. And this is important. Cutting them thick, but with lots of exposed edges, means that they brown up really nicely, without turning to complete mush. And to answer your question: no, I do not salt my eggplant. Over the years I’ve salted, and not, and you want to know something? I can never tell the difference in the finished dish. Also, I’m lazy. So there’s that too.
Once the eggplants were cooked, the rest was easy. With the middle eastern theme running through my head, I went out to the yard to pick a big bunch of wild mint. That, plus some red onions for crunch, as well as a handful of black olives and some chopped almonds got layered on top. The dressing was simply yogurt mixed with a bit of garlic, coriander and hot pepper.
So, thank you Jane, for having come bearing meat. Especially the inspirational lamb burgers.
And I hope you other house guests out there are listening. Forget the perfumed candles. Pork and lamb are definitely the way to go. At least when you're coming to my house.
Vaguely Middle Eastern Eggplant Salad
2 large eggplants
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup black olives
1 small fresh hot pepper
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds
Preheat oven to 200C/400F
Cut eggplant into thick logs (see photo)
Layer on a lightly oiled pan in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil, and use your hand to coat. Don’t worry if it seems like the eggplant is absorbing all the oil. That’s ok. Just so you get a bit all over.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until nicely done and browned. About 20 / 25 minutes. Don’t let them over cook and get all mushy.
Take the pan out of the oven and let cool.
Mix crushed garlic and hot pepper into yogurt and add 1/4 tsp salt.
When eggplants have cooled, put them on a large platter. Top with onions, olives and mint. Drizzle the yoghurt over it all. Scatter with chopped almonds.