While tomatoes may be considered the ultimate crop of August, eggplants and blueberries also signify the bold success of nature in producing a uniquely tasty and intriguing fruit that is both healthy and colorful. Cookbooks consider eggplant a vegetable, but it really is a fruit that belongs to the botanical berry family.
When nutritionists suggest eating more colorful, natural foods they tend to emphasize green foods, as well as red and yellow produce that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Both blueberries and eggplants have a high level of anthocyanins, and are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that provide a healthy diet.
Maine is home to local wild blueberries this time of the year. A flat of them from Beth’s Farmers Market had me busy in the kitchen with a blueberry pie, jars of blueberry jam and syrup for the winter, a coffee cake for the freezer, and my husband’s favorite blueberry pancakes.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a square 8-inch baking dish. Set 1/2 cup of butter in a large bowl, and let it get to room temperature.
-Separate 2 egg whites in a small bowl and set the egg yolks aside. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer to soft peaks, then stir in 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until egg whites form stiff peaks.
-Using the same beater, beat the butter in the large bowl until light and fluffy. Continue to beat while adding in 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon lemon extract and the 2 egg yolks. Remove beater and switch to a wooden spoon.
-In another bowl combine: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
-Stir the flour into the butter mixture in alternate portions with 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk, starting and ending with flour. The batter will be thick.
-Toss 1 1/2 cups fresh Maine blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour and carefully fold into the cake batter.
-Fold the whipped egg whites thoroughly in the batter and turn the batter in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ cup slivered almonds and bake for 50 minutes.
-Cool in the pan and cut in squares to serve. The cake can be frozen.
Greek Style Moussaka
Eggplant recipes abound from the Mediterranean region and many cooks attest to peeling and salting the eggplant slices before cooking to avoid bitterness. Peeling and salting is not necessary with Japanese and lighter-colored eggplant varieties. Many old and revered recipes entail frying eggplant slices, which unfortunately soak up a lot of oil before using them in combination with other ingredients.
This recipe is a simplified version of the original published by Craig Clairborne in his New York Times cookbook. The layer of potatoes were added after tasting a wonderful version of the dish in Crete. The potato and cheese modifications make this moussaka gluten free.
-Slice 2 firm, thin-skinned eggplants and 1 8-inch zucchini into 1/2 inch slices. Layer slices on an oiled cookie sheet, lightly spray with oil, sprinkle with garlic salt and broil until browned, turn with a spatula and broil the other side. Remove from oven.
-Chop 2 large onions and cook the onions in 2 tablespoons butter until browned in a large pan, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
-In the same pan, brown 1 pound ground lamb or beef, drain the fat and return onions and meat to the pan. Over low heat, stir in 2/3 cup red wine, 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Cook on medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.
-Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a baking spray. Peel and slice a large potato into 1/4 inch slices and place in a layer in the pan. Spread a couple of tablespoons of meat sauce on top and layer slices of broiled eggplant and zucchini. Repeat another layer of sauce, vegetables and sauce. Cover completely with slices of aged Provolone cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
We love summer blue skies, the blue of water shimmering in the dusk, and the “bluebird of happiness” has been acclaimed for years. Anthocyanin and antioxidants may be catchwords to nutritionists, but their synonym to the rest of us is “plain delicious.”
(I. Winicov Harrington lives in coastal Maine and is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)