He has a strong personality. Not everyone gets along with fruit right away. Bitter, love it or hate it. For a long time, a lot of people have raised their noses – and there are still those who do. But this situation is changing. We are talking about his superiority, the eggplant. “My life is not easier, but I am fighting,” read one of the phrases stamped on the advertising banner, Your Excellency, for a long time it was considered food for birds. Today, this bitter and misunderstood ingredient is gaining a prominent place on the menus not only in bars, but also in good restaurants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the cookie that conquered Brazil. Thanks to the trip of the owner, Olivio Cardoso, to the Ana Maria Braga program, in 2012. “The business somehow exploded! Even today, there are people coming from other cities to eat our cupcakes,” says the chef. It was so successful that it became a carnival parade. Revelers sang on the streets of BH, a year after their appearance on Rede Globo, “Create/Take the train/Hand on the head/Come and jump on that block/Let’s eat Cupcake Livigno.” In the recipe, in addition to blessed eggplant, spinach, oregano and Canastra cheese are used. The backyard-like bar, which has been open for 18 years, has other mouth-watering dishes on the menu like pot roast and beef ribs with poached cassava salad. “But I always joke that everything could be missing, except for the eggplant cake,” Olivio says.
Long before the “Livinho cake” was popular, the eggplant was already one of the supermarket’s biggest stars. An appetizer with onion liver is one of the most popular appetizers in the capital of Minas Gerais. It is not an exclusive recipe for one institution. Many bars serve the dish, some even varying in meat a bit, as in the case of Fortaleza, which has pork portions, kebabs and chorizo with eggplant. This ultimate symbol of Bohemian cuisine emerged in Belo Horizonte in the 1960s, when deliverymen arrived for work hungry and collected two of the most affordable ingredients at the stalls: eggplant and children. “I remember going to the central market with my dad when I was about 6 or 7 to eat liver with eggplant,” says Flávio Trombino, chef at Xapuri, a reference for Minas Gerais foods in Brazil. Today, in his restaurant, the fruit is made on a plate with or without cheese and even in a farova with cheese. “It was already a subject of resentment in the past. But since gastronomy gained space in the media, with the facts, there was a great appreciation for regional cuisine. Thus, people ended up being open to the experience, to see which flavors were so far distinguished” Flavio adds.
Another one who holds memories of the Central Market is André Paganini, of Chico Dedê. “I remember walking the aisles and wanting to know what that smell was that made so many happy people flock to the aisles of that maze that is the market,” he says. That’s when he discovered that the green color that appeared among the meat prepared on the grill is eggplant, which some hate and others love. “I’ve always been in love. My relationship has always been love. And it started at home, with the world’s best eggplant farova made by my mom.” There, at Paganini’s table, this dish was more than just a side dish. He laughs: “We ate with a spoon!” Since founding his restaurant four years ago, André has used eggplant in many recipes, such as Pork Risotto with Caramelized Eggplant. Currently, however, it appears on the menu in the form of Bernadette’s famous farofa – “obviously made as flawlessly as my mother’s” – as well as burrata with sweet tomato pomodoro and caramelized eggplant.
If eggplant has long been known in the bar world, it has gained more and more space in some of the restaurants run by big names in the capital. On the Pacato tasting menu, by Chef Cayo Sutter, of the nine, there is one dedicated entirely to eggplant. “I think trying to correct the injustice still hangs from my law days in which I worked. It’s the eggplant, a bad thing, wronged by the taste of Brazilians,” says the chef. “We taste more sweet than bitter, and perhaps for this reason, eggplant is one of the worst ingredients in our kitchen,” he explains. To end this prejudice, the chef is working his magic in his kitchen. The fruit is taken straight into the fire and then smothered, which helps maintain texture and still emits a light smoke. It is then dipped in a sauce of grain mustard, fermented honey, lemon and preserved pepper. Moreover, it is stuffed with jabuticaba compote and served with chicken liver gauze. The spiciness of the sauce and the sweetness of honey end up balancing the bitterness. “In our version, we wanted the fruit to be at its peak, as a champ,” Caillou concludes.
This is exactly the bias that Chef Mariana Gontijo wants to end. She has a few tricks to get the gang to try eggplant. On that day, he announced on O Roça Grande Networks that he had a surprise farofa. Everyone eats and loves it. “If you say it was an eggplant, I’m sure not many have even tried it. Just because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean it needs to define your relationship with an ingredient,” he says. The chef insists on emphasizing the importance of chefs as well as a master of taste. “It’s up to us to find ways to present this ingredient in a different way,” he adds. In his restaurant, which operates with weekly menus, Jello appears whenever foot is loaded on the family farm, in Moeda. Sometimes it comes in that farofa surprise, other times in vinaigrette and even in preserves. Mariana argues that the bitterness of the fruit should not completely disappear, after all, when one feature of this food is incorrectly described, it loses its meaning, becoming something else. But it is better to soften it so that it is more acceptable to the most diverse tastes. Mariana learned a trick from her grandmother: cut an eggplant in salted water.
Juliana Duarte, of Cozinha Santo Antônio, is another against hiding the fruit’s bitterness, but she also thinks letting it soak in milk for a while helps satisfy more people. It itself has its differences with the component. “I was so weird with Jello,” he says, “I remember it was bird food in my house!” The relationship began to improve when Juliana saw in The Imperial Cook a table of parity between European and Brazilian components. “And eggplant was introduced as an alternative to eggplant! It caught my attention,” he says. Until one day, a chef offered the chef a version of the rusk-covered fruit. ready! “I loved it and it ended up on the list. Today, it’s a success,” he explains.
And if it was once considered just a bird food, today eggplant is making waves like a timeball in the kitchen. And taking advantage of this journey through time, it’s time to remember an old adage, from the time of our ancestors: “There are no bad ingredients, just bad food.”
Jello is a fruit, not a vegetable
Although many people are confused, eggplant is a fruit, not a vegetable. Jiloeiro is a plant that belongs to the family Solanaceae and the genus Solanum. This genus contains about 3000 species and is distinguished by the large number of vegetables used for food, such as tomatoes and eggplant. Originally from Africa, it reached Brazil in the 17th century, at the hands of enslaved peoples. Today, it is widely cultivated in Brazil, especially in the southeast.