Hommage à L’Aubergine: Alice Waters of Chez Panisse Talks Eggplants with Frenchly Editor-in-Chief Caitlin Shetterly

L'Aubergine by Daniel Davis

Alice Waters, thank you for taking the time to give Frenchly readers a few harvest tips as we start to dip into fall. It has long been a goal of mine to visit your restaurant Chez Panisse. Hopefully when the pandemic is over! 

My first question is, what do you suggest as the perfect early-October weekend meal to make with those late harvests of eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, carrots, and beans? I have been thinking of your Genius Ratatouille.

I always love making a carrot soup. It’s so simple and delicious. And you can easily make variations by adding a bit of sweet red pepper coulis, or a cumin sizzle, or some crème fraiche with herbs.

Since it’s the end of the tomato season, I would suggest making something like an easy tomato confit, with lots of olive oil and garlic.

An Eggplant Caviar is another great idea. It can be served alongside roasted red peppers with grilled levain rubbed with garlic.

And of course, as you mentioned, a ratatouille is a wonderful way to use those end of the season vegetables.

What are some simple things I can do with an eggplant that won’t take me much time to prepare?

Fried eggplant is easy to make and quite delicious. Or maybe grilled directly over a fire.

What are some surprising and wonderful and unusual—and maybe not so simple, or quick– things one can do with an eggplant?

Perhaps a moussaka? Our chef Amy made one recently for the Chez Panisse to go dinner that was just divine!

Can eggplant be a good meat substitute as my family tries to steer away from meat these days….?

Absolutely! It goes wonderfully  in a stew with tomatoes and onions, or as a substitute for meat in a sandwich.

My kids claim to hate eggplant. Did you like it as a child? Is there a way you’ve found to make it that is unctuous and perfect, even for a child?

In truth, I never ate eggplant as a child! It wasn’t until I got to California that I discovered eggplants.

In my family, I’m always looking for whole foods that I can get at the green market & that translate great into quick lunches to slide into metal lunchbot boxes with no problem for my two boys. Do you have any ideas for things that can go in lunchboxes that I can make with late harvest vegetables and my kids will devour?

When my daughter was young,  I used to make very elaborate lunches for her to take to school. It always included a salad with a vinaigrette on the side, so she could pour it in herself when she was ready to eat. She actually talks about it in her book Always Home.

But for something a bit simpler, you could make a shaved carrot salad, mixing carrots of every color. A whole grain toast, rubbed with garlic and doused in olive oil is always great as well.

Thank you, Alice!

( a version of this interview appeared in Frenchly Editor in Chief Caitlin Shetterly’s Friday newsletter, Le Weekend. To sign up for the weekly Le Weekend, click here.


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