Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dinner with Neighbors--Delicious Eggplants

Full of energy after having spent a week at the sea shore I invited my neighbors for a long overdue dinner. We had this tradition to meet at least once a year at our place around Christmas when my family was visiting from Poland. My neighbors are vegetarian and the time before Christmas, including the Christmas Eve, is a perfect time to have them over for the seasonal Polish food, which is traditionally vegetarian. Unfortunately, this past year I took upon an obligation to do prepare desserts for several large parties at one of DC restaurants. I had to make desserts for several hundred people in my home kitchen and it became impossible to invite my neighbors at the same time for a dinner that would be worthy of their sophisticated palate. Meanwhile they managed to invite us over to their house at least a couple of times.

I made an all vegetarian dinner including a variety of dishes and a mocca mousse for dessert. Eggplants with yogurt sauce were the biggest hit. I got this recipe from my Afghan friend and I use it now, especially in the summer, more often than the several Italian recipes for eggplants that I got to know earlier. The Afghan dish is much lighter because it is served without cheese. It tastes best with any oriental bread.

Eggplants with Yogurt Sauce

3 large eggplants,
3 heirloom tomatoes,
4 large cloves of garlic,
2 hot peppers,
1 tsp ground coriander,

Yogurt sauce:
1 cup of plain Greek or any European-style yogurt,
1 tsp dried mint,
2 cloves of garlic,
salt and pepper to taste,
light olive oil for frying.

1. Wash and dry the whole eggplants.
2. Cut them in 1/2 inch thick slices.
3. Salt them and set aside until they "sweat" (i.e., juice drops will appear on the surface); this should take about 20 minutes.
4. Dry excess juice with a paper towel dry and
5. Fry eggplant slices in a big frying pan, until gold on both sides.
6. Preheat oven to 375F.
7. Cut tomatoes and garlic cloves into slices.
8. Arrange one third of the tomato slices and half of the garlic at the bottom of a large oven-proof dish and cover them with about one half of the eggplant slices.
9. Season them with salt, pepper, and dried coriander, and cover with a second layer of tomato slices and garlic.
10. Arrange the remaining eggplants slices on top and cover with another layer of tomato slices.
11. Add salt and pepper, cover with aluminium foil and put the whole dish in the oven.
12. Bake for about 30 minutes.
13. When tomatoes release juice and the whole dish is bubbling at the bottom, take off the foil and let some of the juice evaporate for about 10-15 minutes.
14. Meanwhile, to make yogurt sauce, mix yogurt with mint, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
15. Take eggplants out of the oven, arrange on a plate, dress up with a spoon of yogurt sauce and serve with bread.