The Food Almanac: Thursday, September 19, 2013

Staff Writer
It's Fried Eggplant Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Tamorlan

There seems to be wide agreement as to what constitutes perfect fried eggplant: a greaseless, dark-brown exterior with a bread-crumb crust and a light interior.

Today's Flavor
It's Fried Eggplant Day. There seems to be wide agreement as to what constitutes perfect fried eggplant: a greaseless, dark-brown exterior with a bread-crumb crust and a light interior. This can be had by cutting the eggplant either into disks or sticks, but the sticks--perhaps because of their resemblance to French fries--are more popular. Especially when they're cut very long, as they can be if you utilize the entire length of the eggplant.

Two problems. First, eggplant can be bitter, especially if there are many seeds inside. You can tell this without cutting the eggplant by noting the size of the scar left on the bottom of the eggplant (the end opposite the stem). The bigger that blotch is, the more seeds in the eggplant, and therefore the more likely it is to be bitter.

The second problem is that nothing soaks up oil like eggplant. Here's how to keep that under control. First, coat the eggplant with a dusting of flour then egg wash before applying the seasoned bread crumbs. Second, fry the eggplant in very hot oil--about 385 degrees. That will result in a very dark color on the outside, but the inside cooks so quickly that the oil won't have a chance to get in.

Fried eggplant is usually served with parmesan cheese to shake over them and a marinara sauce to dip them in. Or, in the old Creole places, with a dish of powdered sugar (to kill the bitterness). I like them with bearnaise sauce or even a light garlic mayonnaise.

Edible Dictionary 
muhammara, Arabic, n.--A reddish-brown, thick dip whose major flavor comes from an abundance of hot red peppers. Ground nuts, garlic, and bread crumbs are part of the recipe. So is pomegranate juice, whose flavor makes muhummara distinctive. It's eaten with pita bread in much the same way that hummus and baba ghannoush are, but more sparingly. Its considered a Turkish dish, but it's identified as a signature dish of Aleppo, which is in Syria these days. It is less common in our restaurants than the other Middle Eastern dips, probably because of its aggressively chili-peppered flavor.

Deft Dining Rule #4
Don't order what you think a restaurant should do well, but what it actually does well.

Food In Popular Music
The Four Seasons (the singing group, not the salad dressing) had a Number One hit with Sherry on this date in 1962. . . The same record survey showed the instrumental Green Onions, by Booker T and the MG's, at Number Four.

Music To Drink Espresso By
"Mama" Cass Elliot, the lead female singer of the folk-turned-pop group the Mamas and the Papas, had a mama today in 1941. She had a magnificent, soaring voice with a lot of upper range for a folk singer. She died of a heart attack at thirty-three, while on tour as a solo performer. Her obesity caused a strange, untrue story to disseminate that she choked on a ham sandwich. Another odd story--this one true--is that she once sang an ad jingle for Hardee's Hamburgers.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Minneola, population 9200--is a thoroughly suburban town in the well-named Lake County in the center of the Florida peninsula. It's twenty-five miles west of Orlando, and owes its explosive growth in the last few decades to the nearby Disney World. A variety of tangelo, crossing specific varieties of grapefruit and tangerine, is named for the town. Minneola fruits have a small neck at the stem end, giving the appearance of a squat bell. One marketer of minneolas takes advantage of this and calls them Honeybells. The place to eat is the Minneola Grill, right in the center of town.

Annals Of Clean Dining Rooms
Today in 1876, an appliance used in almost every restaurant with carpets was patented. Melville Bissell invented the carpet sweeper in his shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was motivated by his wife's adverse reaction to dust. The carpet sweeper does what a broom does, but in a way that scatters less dust around.

Food Namesakes
Lol Creme, a rock musician whose most famous group was 10cc, was born today in 1947. . . Actor Randolph Mantooth was born today in 1945. . . Yankee pitcher Catfish Hunter won his two hundredth game today in 1976, and became only the third pitcher to do that by his thirty-first birthday. . . Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon Jr. rebelled against Virginia colonial governor William Berkeley and burned Jamestown. . . Scott Baker, a big-league pitcher, was born in Shreveport today in 1981.

Words To Eat By
"How can people say they don't eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name?"--Jeff Smith.

Words To Drink By
"There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink."--Booth Tarkington, American author.

 
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