Guess what!? I. Can't. Cook.

No shit. And the really sucky thing is that I would actually LIKE to be able to cook. I enjoy gastronomic delights and I have a modest collection of enticing cookbooks, but nearly every one of my forays into the culinary arts has ended in disaster or disgust. I don't get it. I can read a fucking recipe! Honest I can. In fact, the one I tried tonight, I read several times before attempting anything.

For my birthday, Bethany (who CAN cook) sent me this lovely cookbook by Claudia Roden called, "Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon". Great photographs, interesting histories...a book with which to sit down and read just for the pleasure of it. But noooooo...I couldn't be satisfied with just enjoying the author's anecdotes and insights. No, I had to go ahead and try to actually execute one of her carefully penned recipes.

I finally decided to attempt Batinjan Bil Rumman (Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses) for a couple of reasons. One, it sounded both simple and yummy, and two, during my NJ visit, Bethany took me to this international food warehouse where I picked up a bottle of pomegranate molasses.

So I culled together the relatively few ingredients and prepared to make eggplant history. Though I enjoy eggplant immensely in its various cooked forms, I have never personally worked with eggplant (surprise, surprise). Claudia instructed me to roast the plump shiny aubergine - whole - in a 475 degree oven on a baking sheet "until the skin is wrinkled and it is very soft". This process takes 45-55 minutes. So while the eggplant was roasting, I got on with the making of the pomegranate dressing. Lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Easy peasy.

It all seemed to be going well. The roasting eggplant smelled fantastic, the pomegranate dressing was ready to go, so I decided to cook a piece of fish to go with my eggplant. Simple enough, right? Wrong! I tried a recipe that called for garlic and pine nuts and olive oil. Tah-Dah! My lack of even a remote semblance of culinary instinct struck again. Into the garbage it went.

Not to be defeated, I optimistically pulled the eggplant out of the oven, removed the wrinkly skin, pressed the liquid out of the flesh as Claudia instructed and kept thinking, "damn, this is REALLY mushy...Claudia, is it supposed to be this mushy?...surely you did not intend for it to be this mushy..." Nevertheless, I plopped the roasted eggplant mush on a plate, spooned some of the pomegranate dressing over it, garnished it with parsley and pomegranate seeds and dug in.

Okay...in all honesty...the taste wasn't too bad, but the texture was revolting. Warm, slightly slimy mush studded with seeds. Blech! *sigh* ah well...I'll just eat my old stand-by: Ritz crackers with cottage cheese and elderberry jelly. MMMMmmm!


Alison said...

Hmmm... eggplants have a lot of moisture in them. Some recipes tell you to salt them first. Toss the eggplant cubes with some salt, then sit them out on some paper towels for awhile. The salt pulls out some of the water, which the paper towels then absorb.

Coincidentally, I also made an eggplant recipe the other day. Penne with eggplant and tuna. It sounds weird, but it's really good! I am warming up the leftovers now.

Alison said...

Upon re-reading, I see that you were supposed to roast the WHOLE eggplant. That's weird. Maybe you could compromise and roast the two salted halves.

boty said...

yes you could roast two halves...or...tada "prick" the eggplant all over and roast uncovered!

BTW if it was still too mushy to your liking...placing the pulp in a casserole dish and returning it to the oven would help dry it up more...or even placing it in a skillet over low heat until the right consistency...on second thought I just looked at your skillet wielding abilities.

cathryn said...

yeah alison go ahead and brag about your fabulous eggplant - I'll stick to s'mores! :)

boty - I DID prick the mofo all over and roasted it uncovered on a foil lined baking sheet (per Claudia's instructions)