19 September, 2010

expectations and eggplant

I'm afraid I could not come up with any way to link these two things, other than the fact that they both start with E and I want to talk about both.

First, the expectations. When I was young enough that only my mother could understand my high-pitched voice I used to get very upset when something did not go the way I expected it to go. My mother cleverly told me stories about what it was like to go to a new store or to a stranger's house during the car ride there. This gave me a better idea of what to expect and softened the blow of a new situation. Today, when I enter a new situation I don't have a caring, protecting figure who can tell me exactly what will happen and what I will feel. Rather, I have hundreds of people telling me what to expect, and none of them quite get it right.

We seem to have such a desire to control the world around us and create rules so that we know exactly what to expect. This is, in effect, absurd. When learning a new language, one quickly learns (and becomes annoyed by the fact) that every rule has exceptions. In everything I am learning about cell biology and genetics, I am discovering more and more instances that do not feet into neat categories. Just ask any histologist. If these grand systems of linguistics and biology do not allow for our expectations to consistently be met, how can we expect our everyday life to do so?

I am beginning to see that if I let go of my expectations I will be much more satisfied with the outcome. What exactly does that mean? It means not assuming that tomorrow I will be able to study for 10 hours, or that I will soon become best friends with somebody I met, or that a rainy day will lead to melancholy. Balancing this with organization will be difficult but I think that when I try, each day will be filled with a bit more wonder.

And now for the eggplant. This is the second time I've made this dish recently and I cannot get enough of it. I'm tempted to call it an eggplant caponata, but there are probably some traditional guidelines to what gets to be called a caponata and, well, I don't want to give you any false expectations.

Eggplant Recipe:

Roasting an eggplant is my favorite first step in any eggplant dish. You don't have to go to the trouble of salting and pressing, nor do you have to use a ton of oil for it to take on a rich, creamy texture. I don't even bother with removing the skin - it's a tricky step, and I want to keep all those antioxidants in my meal.

1 good-sized eggplant
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs tomato paste
Fresh basil, chopped or cut into ribbons

Preheat oven to 350˚F
Cut the eggplant in half, length-wise, and spray or rub the inside with olive oil. Place it on a baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until it is good and mushy
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook over low heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
When the eggplant is done roasting, allow it to cool for a few minutes and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Add these to the onions along with the tomato paste.
Let this cook for a couple minutes longer, making sure the eggplant is heated through and everything is nicely mixed. I like to mash the eggplant a bit with the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat and top with fresh basil.

Serve with good crusty bread or wasa crackers and kalamata olives.
Serves 2 on its own.

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