Old Man Winter
I dread it, anyway. Fall is lovely, what with the crunchy leaves and apple cider and a cozy urge to make delicious, slow-cooked soups and stews. But winter? No thanks.
The first story I remember hearing about Winter and me came from my parents. We were living in New Hampshire, I had recently learned to walk, and the first thick blanket of snow lay beckoning. A glorious Kodak moment was theirs for the taking. My parents bundled me up in a puffy yellow snowsuit, planted me in the back yard, and watched in breathless excitement.
I took two wobbly steps, swayed uncertainly, and pitched forward like an expertly-felled tree.
With barely enough coordination to operate my limbs when they weren’t swathed in yards of fabric and insulation, remaining face-down in the snow was the only option. I imagine I resembled a drunken banana slug.
It’s no secret that my parents promptly fell into a fit of hysterical laughter. Ho ho ho! What kind of first-time parents were they, anyway? First-time parents are supposed to freak out about everything, especially when suffocation is imminent.
(ah, revenge was sweet for the parents of the colicky baby!)
So there you have it. Winter tried to smother me when I was 10 months old and we’ve been at war ever since.
So for anyone who wants to distract themselves from the fact that winter is coming, coming soon, cook this. I made it last weekend and it was delicious.
Braised Lebanese Eggplant with Chickpeas
(From the September 2007 Vegetarian Times)
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
6 medium Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t. ground allspice
¼ t. ground cumin
1 cup marinara sauce
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 large mint sprigs, plus 2 T. chopped mint
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 7 minutes, or until soft. Stir in eggplant and cook 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Add garlic, allspice, and cumin, and cook 1 minute more.
Stir in marinara sauce, red wine vinegar, and 2/3 cup water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Lay mint springs on top of eggplant mixture, cover, and transfer pot to oven. Cook 45 to 50 minutes, or until eggplant is tender. Remove mint sprigs and stir in chopped mint. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I served it over Jasmine rice. Mmmmm...