When you have a cooking habit that often surpasses your available funds, grocery shopping gets a little bit more complicated than a trip to the nearest supermarket, but it’s also a lot more fun. In other words, if you have some time to spend acquiring ingredients (and in most cases, access to a vehicle), you can save a lot of money. I love international ingredients but find myself seriously cringing at the thought of paying 3 or 4 dollars for a spice-jar sized quantity of sesame seeds at a place like Whole Foods. So, if what you are planing to make is 4 dozen greek cookies that are covered in the things, stop, breathe and think….who uses sesame seeds? Or really, to be politically correct, which cuisines use sesame seeds? I can guarantee you that your greek friend’s grandma is not buying seeds for her kolouria at Whole Foods. Okay, so now you’re on the right track. Is there a greek supermarket near you? An asian market? I found a half POUND bag of sesame seeds at an Indian/”International” market near my house, for less than Whole Foods charges for one of those tiny 2 oz. jars. Tofu for 99 cents? Try the Super 88, the Asian grocery mecca, or any of the smaller neighborhood asian markets. I could go on, but you get the idea. And what this brings me to is Demoulas Market Basket.
I know, you may have set foot inside Market Basket at one point and were quickly scared away by the sawdust on the floor and the employees chasing a woman who was trying to make a run for it with a shopping cart full of unpaid groceries. It’s okay, put on your non-skid shoes and throw that purse strap over your head and let’s go.
Market Basket is a crazy place, and if you go there on a weekday evening or a Saturday or Sunday morning, you will never want to return. But they have amazing deals, seriously. The produce is great and they even have organic stuff. They sell fantastic organic Hawaiian coffee for like 6 bucks a bag. And because the Somerville location, where we go, caters to a clientele from places like Haiti the Dominican Republic and Brazil you can find really interesting things that you may not have seen before. Which brings me to Jilo– finally. Whew.
So, I saw these adorable little green eggplant things that were wrapped together in packs of 10 or so, labeled ‘jilo-brazilian eggplant’. Since I love eggplant, I decided to buy them and rely on the wonderful world of online recipes to tell me what to do.
The first thing I discovered is that there are two kinds of jilo. One is sort of long, like the ones pictured here and should be used when green. After it begins to turn yellow or orange, it becomes very, very bitter. The other type of jilo is more round, like a tomato and has a red or orange blush to it, which is fine- the color indicates ripeness.
The recipes I found didn’t really excite me, so I decided to see what would happen if I just cut it up (no need to peel) tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it at around 375 F. After about 30 minutes I threw in some grape tomatoes I had lying around and roasted for another 30 minutes or so. The result was slightly firmer, and tangier than ordinary eggplant, but still an eggplant-like dish. We ate it over brown rice with a balsamic tahini sauce (1/4 cup of tahini in the blender with a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and some water to thin it out, salt, and freshly ground pepper. You can also add a little olive oil for a richer sauce).