We Cook: Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume – Eggplant Stacks with Pomegranate, Mint and Yogurt Sauce
Last year we were overrun by cucumbers and this year we’re drowning in eggplant. There’s an x-rated joke in there somewhere (a garden-variety one, at that. HA HA HA!).
To make a dent in the nine pounds of eggplant I harvested in one day, I chose a recipe for eggplant stacks from Silvena Rowe’s Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume. Made of chopped sweet potatoes with feta cheese between layers of eggplant, mint, pomegranate, and yogurt are also main components in the finished dish.
Served with the eggplant stacks is a yogurt sauce that uses suzme as its base. According to Rowe, suzme is drained yogurt, or labne. I followed a separate recipe in the book for the suzme by draining whole milk yogurt in the refrigerator overnight.
I chopped fresh mint
and then got out my favorite unitasker for the garlic
and measured out the pomegranate molasses.
If you can’t find pomegranate molasses in your grocery store there is a simple recipe in the book on how to make it at home using pomegranate juice. I can almost always find pomegranate juice at the grocery store but have to go out of my way for the molasses so, in ten years, when I run out of the molasses, I’ll have a recipe I can use.
The yogurt sauce also called for the seeds of one pomegranate. I looked in every store close by and found no pomegranates. I shut my eyes and left them out of the sauce completely. I did not substitute anything for them because I felt that would be doing a disservice to the tart, juicy little things.
Obviously, the sauce would taste like it needed something and the texture wouldn’t be the same, but since I didn’t follow the recipe, any fault in the yogurt sauce this time around would be my own.
The finished sauce went into the refrigerator
and I started after the sweet potatoes.
I had a touch more than the recipe called for but by the time I removed the skanky ends of the sweet potatoes (I got the last few in the bin at the store) I had just enough.
Rowe calls for boiling the sweet potatoes until tender but with no central AC in our house I am selective about when I create a sauna in my kitchen. I microwaved the sweet potatoes exactly like baked potatoes and let them cool before removing their skins.
The instructions only call for the sweet potatoes to be ‘coarsely chopped.’ I would’ve liked a more exact measurement (surprised?) but bearing in mind the pieces would be in between slices of eggplant, I kept the pieces on the smaller side for easy cutting and chewing.
Had I cut the potatoes before boiling I think 3/4″ dice would’ve been a good size for the pieces to allow for a little breakdown while cooking.
I put all the sweet potatoes aside and got out two eggplants.
Rowe calls for two small eggplants in the ingredient list but specifies that you only need sixteen 1/4″ thick rounds for the recipe. Specifying a 4″ eggplant or something in a similar size-range would’ve been a little more helpful (or even two 2″ eggplants. Although, that is an odd size unless she’s calling for something other than the standard globe eggplant. The ingredient list just says ‘two small eggplants’).
I took a tape measure to the eggplant to make sure I was cutting at an proper thickness
starting after the metal tab on the tape measure since that thing is just annoying.
I switched over to a mandoline after my first slice looked like this.
The mandoline sliced most of them a hair under 1/4″, but the difference in size was negligible.
When building the eggplant stacks a few steps later in the recipe, Purple Citrus instructs you to stack the eggplant slices in ascending size.
Since I had extras thanks to my one big eggplant, I cherry-picked the pieces that were most equal in diameter instead of making eggplant pyramids
I salted, peppered, and floured the chosen
then fried them in a bit of olive oil.
I refried two in this batch as they didn’t look like they absorbed enough oil.
After each batch finished frying I drained them on a naked plate.
I generally forego paper towels when draining fried food because I’ve found the towel causes the food to lose crispness. My bacon has been much crisper using this method but my arteries are probably crispier, too.
While batches of eggplant fried and drained, I made the filling for the stacks.
I broke the feta cheese apart into pieces roughly the same size as the sweet potatoes
and added mint to the mix.
The eggplant was done by the time I had crumbled and chopped things for the filling, so I did a quick wipe of the pan, melted a tablespoon of butter
and then dumped in the mixture.
Immediately after stirring it looked like this
but got less crazy after gentle mixing.
The cheese, potatoes, and mint only needed a brief time on the stove and after they were combined I started making the eggplant stacks.
They came together quickly and when I was done I had four very pretty vegetable towers:
As instructed, I placed everything in the oven to warm through before serving and when they came out they were ready to eat.
I served the eggplant as entrees with two per person but they’d work as a substantial side just fine.
I would’ve liked the recipe to be more specific about eggplant size and cut-size for the sweet potatoes. On a positive note, I was happy that I did not end up with a mountain of filling leftovers. When a recipe is for filled or stuffed foods, I often end up with excess filling or not enough. Happily, this recipe left me with only a small amount in the bowl after putting together the specified yield (four stacks). Since I had eggplant rounds left over from my big eggplant I was easily able to make two more stacks. Based on the amount of filling leftovers and typical eggplant size I would change the recipe yield from four to six stacks.
I’m not saying that a bigger yield of these vegetable towers is a bad thing at all. They certainly were as nice to eat as they were to look at.