For the last year a two-quart jar has sat silently in our refrigerator–waiting. It has remained in its place while hands reached past it for many other jars of fermented vegetables; onions, peppers, kimchi, sauerkraut of all flavors. I am pretty sure nobody else in my family noticed it, even though two-quarts takes up a lot of real estate in our crammed refrigerator. They all tend to look past unknown things in jars, as they are wary of their mother’s experiments. I would look at this ferment, a slightly grey color, and think "maybe tomorrow" as I reached for anything but the eggplant.
I have to admit, I had never even tasted the lacto-fermented eggplant. Last summer I peeled and sliced a small box of Japanese style eggplants, added basil leaf and salt. I let it ferment for a week and when it was done I tucked it in and proceeded to play this game of “maybe tomorrow” with myself. A confession - I have a fragile relationship with eggplant. When it is cooked just right, I love it. When it is not, well, I feel like I am five again moving it around my plate trying to figure out how to find a place for it that is not my mouth. I especially don’t like it when it is not fully cooked, so my insecurity was well-founded in that the fermented eggplant was indeed raw.
Yesterday I spent the day with a friend roasting eggplants. I was feeling friendly with eggplant so the day had come: I had the appetite for eggplant. I reached into the refrigerator and pulled out the patient jar of fermented eggplant. I tasted it, and was surprised. I liked it. The fermented taste had taken on a lemony flavor. I immediately shared it with my friend and her young son. They both shared my enthusiasm.
Inspired, I made a baba ganoush, the Middle Eastern eggplant spread. No roasting, just tahini, a bit of garlic and parsley, and a food processor. Done. Yumm.