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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume VIII, Number 2 Spring 2000  


Potatoes and eggplant, once suspected of being poisonous (they both belong to the nightshade family), have become the cook’s friends. On their own, eggplant and potatoes have mild, comforting flavors. A simple steamed potato or roasted eggplant slice is an excellent accompaniment for spicy entrées. Simply peel and slice eggplant. Brush with olive oil and grill as an underliner for a hot vegan chili or gunpowder hot five-bean stew. Steam potatoes and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley to complement fiery vegan paella or a Thai-dish sparked with ginger and chilies.

Willing "palates," eggplant and potatoes can be used to create international cuisine. In French cuisine, eggplant can be married with zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers as a wonderful summer stew. Italian cuisine uses eggplant sliced and layered with tomatoes and herbs. In Indian cuisine, eggplant is sautéed with cardamom and peppercorns. Eggplant "caviar" is popular in Russian cuisine, and in Turkish cuisine the eggplant is used as the perfect edible "stuffing" container. The potato is "fritata-ed" in Italian and Mexican cuisine, "pancaked" in Russian and Irish cuisine, and "au gratined" in French cuisine.

We have listed below examples of several countries’ seasonings, including ingredients readily available from most suppliers. If you have time, visit international markets for exciting spice blends and fresh herbs. Try these flavor profiles in mashed or roasted white or sweet potatoes or in stewed eggplant or on roasted eggplant slices:

Along with grains, beans, and legumes, pasta, and root vegetables, eggplant and potatoes should be a staple in the vegan quantity kitchen. They are tolerant veggies, able to be stored for extended periods, hold up to heat and cold well, and can be prepared ahead of time. They can be used as a basis for an entrée or as a supporting cast member to a meal.

Potatoes can be purchased fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Select a variety of forms to fit your menu and prep time. For example, mashed potatoes can be made from fresh or dried potatoes. Fresh mashed potatoes will require time and labor for cooking, peeling, and prepping. The flavor and texture of fresh mashed potatoes require little assistance; a small amount of margarine or vegetable broth to moisten, and a shake or two of white pepper (black pepper gives too speckled an appearance) would be enough. Dried potatoes may require a bit more pepper and margarine. Both fresh and dried mashed potatoes can be spiced up with rosemary, oregano, horseradish, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and fresh or dried parsley or cilantro. Mashed potatoes make a great side dish and can also be used to thicken soups and sauces, or as a base for "cream" soups. They can be shaped into potato pancakes, too.

Baked potatoes make great side dishes and supporting ingredients for entrées. Build a baked potato entrée by topping baked potato halves with leftover chili, bean and veggie stew or lentil stew, chopped fresh onions, summer squash (like zucchini or crooked neck), and salsa, or with sautéed garbanzo beans or hummus, sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley. Potato skins can also serve as a basis for an entrée: simply scoop out potato to give it a mashed-like texture, and top as preferred.

Oven combinations are a perfect venue for potatoes. Mix prepared mashed potatoes with shredded sautéed cabbage or sauerkraut and crumbled smoked tofu or vegan breakfast links and bake. This is a take-off on a traditional Bavarian winter dish. Potato lasagna can be made with reconstituted sliced dried potatoes or fresh sliced potatoes. Alternate layers of potato with thinly sliced zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and carrots, and use a tomato or soymilk-based sauce. Potato croquettes can be made with mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, finely diced vegetables, and soft tofu or soymilk. Potato pancakes can comprise a whole food category of their own. Find a basic recipe and then go wild with seasoning (see the potato pancake recipe in this issue and the seasoning suggestions above).

To the basic batter add, chopped onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, chili or bell pepper, mushrooms, and fresh chopped herbs for flavor variety. Offer salsa, bean-based sauces (such as black bean or garbanzo), apple or pear sauce, diced fresh or canned fruit, and soy yogurt as accompaniments to potato pancakes. For breakfast, offer sweet potato pancakes, seasoned with nutmeg, ginger, lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon, and serve with stewed apple slices, fruit preserves, and raisins.

Eggplant can be peeled or not, depending on the age of the vegetable. Although edible, eggplant skin can be tough and bitter. Eggplant will discolor when exposed to air, so plan to prepare it right away or layer it with water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Eggplant slices can be dipped in soymilk or soft tofu and bread crumbs and baked or fried. Serve slices with a variety of sauces for a satisfying and attractive entrée. Or cube peeled eggplant and grill on a skewer with button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh and dried herbs.

Whole eggplants can be placed in the oven or on an open flame to be roasted (be sure to pierce vegetables in several places to avoid eggplant explosions). Turn and roast until the eggplant becomes soft enough to mash. Depending on whom you speak with, this kind of preparation is either an old Arabic, Russian, or Indian method. The soft eggplant can be peeled and mashed and used as a dip (add lots of garlic and tomato), as eggplant "caviar" (with chopped onions and garlic), or as an ingredient in soups and casseroles.

Eggplant slices can be layered (instead of or in addition to the pasta) in lasagna for a hearty entrée. This dish can be prepared, baked, and frozen until ready to use. Chunks of eggplant can be stewed with chilies, tomatoes, and potatoes for a fast stew. Add cooked beans and different types of herbs and spices to create several dishes from one basic dish. Steam chunks of eggplant with garlic and onions. Allow to cool. Then, for a change, create an eggplant salad instead of potato or pasta. For example, a Moroccan eggplant salad that can be served hot or cold consists of roasted bell peppers, roasted mild chilies, sautéed eggplant slices, tomatoes stewed with garlic, and all tossed with lemon juice and paprika. Stewed eggplant can be tossed with pasta or cooked grains for an entrée or side dish. For example, add stewed eggplant to sautéed garlic, onions, fennel, and green peas. Toss with pesto sauce (basil, pine nuts, and olive oil) and add to cooked pasta or rice for a fast entrée.

We haven’t even mentioned the many menu items you can create with eggplant and potato combinations. Put on your veggie thinking caps and see where your imagination takes you!

Excerpts from the Spring 2000 Issue:

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Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler.

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