Thursday, August 28, 2008
Freshman / Première Année
My first year of college was spent 80 miles away from home, sharing a 170 sq ft room (16sq m) with my older sister, two metal beds, one noisy spring mattress and one tiny fridge.
Except for the old beds and the desk, everything was brought from home. Our mother helped us clean and redecorate the room, gave us her mini electrical oven, supplied us with home baked cakes nearly every weekend and gave us unconditional love and support.
Despite all this effort, the dormitory was far from homey. It was badly maintained, with noisy neighbors and hungry mosquitoes. Every other day, after school and already in our pajamas, my sister and I had to go down the three story building, stand in line to fill up our two five gallons jerrycans with water, because our sink was just ornamental, then go back to our room, catching our breath at each story. I have memories of girls washing their clothes outside by the water fountain and carrying them in big, wide plastic bowl while singing popular songs. Memories of dinners with my sister’s friends in our tiny room, where some of them would sit on the beds, some by the window and me on the desk. You had to go outside to cough.
The meals there were a matter of mood, luck and sometimes bravery. While my sister was in charge of doing the dishes and keeping the music going, I was in charge of feeding us and keeping us safe. To cook I had to bring out the folding table from under my sister’s bed (I had the oven and one folding chair under mine), put it in the middle of the room, place the electric stovetop on it, sit on my knees on the corner of the bed and keep the door shut at all time to avoid an accident. Dinners were simple, convenient and meant to keep us from starving. Rice, pasta, fruits and cheese were often on the table; the most sophisticated meals I’ve made being a ratatouille and chicken saffron rice.
Sometimes, when feeling fancy, we would go to the nearby butcher and by a rotisserie chicken, to which he would always add a loaf of bread for free. That night, we knew dinner was going to be savored blissfully; when other times, when feeling lazy, and brave, we would dine at the dinning hall. Standing in line, we would slide our steel trays along the kitchen windows to see our plates filled with, once more, what is supposed to be mashed potatoes, a suspicious fish soup, unseasoned cucumber and tomatoes salad, a slice of bread, cheese and plain yogurt. When extremely hungry, and extremely fearless, we would gulp down the soup, leave out the mashed potatoes and take the salad, bread, cheese and yogurt to our room. That night, we knew dinner was ruined and that our fridge was, yet again, going to add another cup of yogurt to its shelf. By the end of the week, and four cups of plain yogurt later, my sister and I sitting on the desk, our feet up on the window, we would feast on cereal and yogurt, yogurt cake and sometimes eggplant and yogurt dip.
We left the dormitory the next year, but took our beloved eggplant dip home with us.
Spicy Eggplant and Yogurt Dip
Recipe: Serves 4-6 people
- 2 medium eggplants
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
- 1 tsp harissa
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp cumin, freshly ground
- Pita chips for serving
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Prick the eggplants in a few places with a pointed knife so that they will not burst. Put the eggplants under the broiler until the skin is black and blistered. Turn on the other side for a few more minutes. Roast the eggplants for 15-20 minutes, or until they feel very soft when you press them.
When cool enough to handle, peel the eggplants and remove as much seed as possible. Drop the flesh into a colander. Chop the flesh roughly with the point of a knife to let the juice escape.
Pour the eggplants into a bowl and beat in the olive oil, the harissa and the yogurt and mix until it is thoroughly blended. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Spoon into a serving bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Serve with pita chips (pita wedges baked in a bakeware at 350 for 5 minutes, or until crunchy) The dip is even better served the following day.
Dip épicé d’Aubergine et Yaourt
In Francais Please: Pour 4-6 personnes
- 2 aubergines moyennes
- 100ml de yaourt nature
- 2 c.s d’huile d’olive vierge
- 2 gousses d’ail, finement émincées
- 2 c.s de persil, finement haché
- 1 c.s de menthe fraiche, finement haché
- 1 c.c de harissa
- 1 c.c de jus de citron
- ½ c.c de cumin, fraichement moulu
- Chips de pita pour servir
Préchauffer le grill de votre four. Couvrir un tole de patisserie de papier aluminium et mettre dessus les aubergines. Piquer les aubergines tout autour à l’aide d’un coteau pointu et mettre sous le grill jusqu’à ce que la peau noircisse et a se froisser. Retourner l’aubergine de l’autre côté. Eteindre le grill mais laisser le four allumé afin de continuer la cuisson des aubergines pour 15-20 minutes, ou jusqu’à ce qu’elles deviennent molles.
Refroidir les aubergines. Peler, épépiner le plus possible et mettre dans une passoire et couper grossierement avec le pointe du couteau pour se debarasser du jus.
Verser les aubergines dans un bol et y ajouter l’huile d’olive, la harissa et le yaourt et bien mélanger. Ajouter le reste des ingredients et mélanger encore une fois. Rectifier l’assaisonnement.
Mettre dans un bol pour servir. Couvrir de film plastique et mettre au frais jusqu’à ce qu’il refroidissent completement. Servir avec les chips de pita. (Des tranches de pita passées au four, 160C pendant 5 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’elles deviennent croustillantes)
Ce dip est encore meilleur le lendemain.