Saturday, August 01, 2015

Eggplant and tangerine

This morning, an eggplant was sitting on the counter and I thought: I have to eat that eggplant right now, fried and drizzled with honey. 

I first heard of eggplant with honey (and last heard of eggplant with honey) in Laurie Colwin’s classic essay “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” in which she reminisces about cooking in her tiny New York City apartment when she was in her 20s. She only mentions the eggplant with honey in passing, but this oddly appetizing concept stuck with me. For twenty years that little craving remained latent and then this morning, out of the blue, demanded to be satisfied.

I found some recipes online -- eggplant with honey seems to be a Spanish dish -- and patched a few of them together to devise a simple, quick formula that worked beautifully. Here it is:
  1. Slice an eggplant thinly -- 1/8 inch is about right, though if some slices are thicker, that’s ok. It’s nice to have some fleshy pieces, too.
  2. Place eggplant in a bowl and cover with milk and a big pinch of salt.
  3. Let sit for 45 minutes or so then pat completely dry.
  4. Heat a thick layer of olive oil in a pan. You’re not deep frying but you’re not doing a delicate saute, either. I know some people don’t fry in olive oil anymore for health reasons, but the thought of frying the eggplant in any other oil felt wrong to me. Obviously, you should use any oil you like.
  5. When the oil is hot, dredge eggplant slices in flour and fry until pale gold and a little crispy on the outside, thoroughly tender on the inside. 
  6. Drain on paper towels. Salt to taste. Drizzle generously with honey. 
SO GOOD. The eggplant was substantial, creamy, salty, and exotically sweet from the honey. It was everything I'd hoped it would be. I raved about my eggplant and Mark said, “Maybe you should make me some.” 

The only thing more shocking than Mark asking me to make him eggplant with honey was his reaction after eating a plateful: “Thank you. That was delicious!” 

I’d think he was just saying that, but he never just says that.

So, fried eggplant with honey. That’s my first recommendation for the day. The second is to go see the movie Tangerine. I had to drag myself because I knew it was about pimps, johns, and a couple of transgender sex workers in Los Angeles too poor to buy anything but a single donut on Christmas Eve. Also, it was shot entirely on an iPhone. I couldn’t imagine how this was going to be much fun, but my imagination failed me. The movie is wildly fun, gorgeous, raucous, and touching. I didn’t want it to end. Owen loved it too. I wasn't going to mention that I took Owen because people might raise their eyebrows, but that is cowardly. I'm not ashamed that I took him, nor sorry. 

My only complaint concerns a vomiting scene. I know I've whined about this before, but in every movie and TV show lately you can be sure someone is going to vomit loudly and realistically. Often, it's played for laughs, as in Spy and Dope, so I guess some people find it hilarious. I find it totally gross. The vomiting scene in Tangerine was the most graphic and disgusting I’ve seen to date and it went on for what seemed like five minutes. I later learned that the actor drank a lot of vodka before filming so he could really go the distance and what we’re seeing is actual vomiting.

Awesome. I hate this trend. 

Other than that, Tangerine is perfect.


  1. What a wonderful coincidence to come here just now and read about Laurie Colwin. I spent the afternoon at a birthday party for a woman who is very active in the Yiddish culture community, and I asked her if she had ever heard of Laurie Colwin. {Laurie was one of Isaac Bashevis Singer's translators.} She hadn't, but one of the guests there knew who she was and told me some interesting things, including the fact that there is a new documentary tracing his relationships with the group of women who translated his work out of Yiddish into English.

    That recipe sounds odd and wonderful. I will try it. Thank you!

    1. You have such interesting friends! Wow. So Laurie Colwin was a Yiddish translator? I wonder what would have happened if she'd lived, what else she would have done, what she would have made of today's food world.

    2. I do have interesting friends, and I meet them all contra dancing! {Speaking of which, one of my contra dance friends just did a lovely job translating this Yiddish vegetarian cookbook, highly recommend:

      Yes, I was very curious about that aspect of Laurie Colwin's life and career, because she wrote very freely about herself, family and friends, and nothing I can recall about working with IB Singer, who is an iconic figure in the world of Yiddish literature. I also want to know how she got fluent enough in Yiddish to have a gig like that. The Jews she wrote about are all so assimilated, and so was she. There is a lot of writing about Christmas and Halloween in her food books.

      Amused and horrified, would be my guess, but secretly thrilled at all the great organic produce and abundant greenmarkets in NYC!

    3. I hope someone is writing her biography. That's one I wouldn't wait for at the library, I'd buy it hardcover. No, she didn't give the impression of being in touch with any Yiddish roots. Interesting. Mysterious. I want to know everything about her.

  2. Witloof, thank you for the morsel that Laurie Colwin translated IBSinger. Somehow it completes a circle.

    I can understand the eggplant/honey thing intellectually, but I am not sure I would make it. The next time I am making ratatouille, I will set a few pieces of eggplant aside for a honey drizzle. The salt seems like an absolute necessity here.

    I heard the director and one of the actors of Tangerine interviewed on Fresh Air. Worth a listen.

    By the way, I watched Clouds of Sils Maria the other night, on your recommendation. Aside from being irritated with the way they butched up Juliette Binoche, I thought it was splendid. I can see that it is not for everybody. Kirsten Stewart was a delightful surprise.

    1. Ratatouille has been on my summer list -- I think that's why I bought the eggplant in the first place. I heard the Fresh Air interview and it was fascinating. It's how I learned the details of the, um, filmmaking.

  3. What did I miss? When did frying in olive oil become unhealthy? Is it just because it has a low smoke point? I have been wanting to see Tangerine.

    1. Yes, supposedly unhealthy due to smoke point. Out of favor. You will like Tangerine!

  4. In the unlikely event that some random eggplant should suddenly appear to be dealt with... I will keep this is mind (post to pinterest to be quickly forgotten). My mother must have seriously screwed up something with eggplant. Cause she always brought wierd food home from the market or saved a spot in the huge garden.. But I've only seen the stuff cooked up once. A sad little pile of brown stuff.
    The thing I remember reading Colwin was the Xmas roast. In fact it was the first thing I read an consequently had to dig up all old gourmet (or was it Bon appetite) and was horrified she had died years before. Almost as heart breaking as Irene nemirovsky and suite franchise...

    1. Really sad about Laurie Colwin. Such a voice. How she won SO many women over. Is it the spiced beef story you read?

  5. Thanks for the movie warning. I can't stand such scenes, and I was looking forward to Spy, too! Oh well.

    1. I think if you try to avoid this problem you'll never go to the movies again. Even my beloved Silicon Valley on TV is plagued with it! You should see Spy anyway. It's very funny.

    2. The first time I saw someone vomit onscreen, it was Minnie Driver being motion sick after riding in a horse drawn carriage. I was stunned that the director thought that onscreen vomiting was an appropriate aesthetic choice and left the movie about halfway through.

  6. I am impressed you survived that. If my husband a) requested eggplant with honey and b) complimented it, I think I would have a stroke.

    Disappointed to hear about Spy and Tangerine, as I thought both sounded good but am not into gross-out humor. Maybe I will be able to find time estimates online so I know to go the bathroom at 47 minutes in or whatever.

    1. Oh, Tangerine is so good, you should see it anyway! And the vomit scene is not just for humor, I think it's part of setting the gritty scene. Not that I care. I still hate graphic on-screen vomit. You can cover your ears and eyes. You'll know when it's about to happen -- the signs are very clear.

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