At the Orleans market on Saturday, the eggplants were the first vegetable to catch my eye. Laid out at a stand I'd never seen before was basket upon basket of the vegetables in every shade from inky violet to pure white.
I asked the vendor, who introduced himself as John Stacy, to present the varieties as well. "We have dancers, Italian, the dark ones are Oriental charm, and the purple and white are called fairy tales," he explained. "The only get to be 5 or 6 inches long."
He went on to explain that he grows them for the Jimmy Fund. Along with mounting his bicycle for the annual Sturbridge to Provincetown ride, he also raising funds for Dana-Farber selling vegetables. After having a family member survive cancer with the institutions' help, the colorful eggplants he grows are his equivalent of a Jimmy Fund bake sale.
I bought one of each, inspired both by the story behind the vegetables and their vibrant skins. At home I warmed the oven and sliced the darkest and lightest of the bunch into thin rounds. Thrown into a bowl and tossed with olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and salt, they layered the bottom of a long rectangular glass pan in close rows. I covered them with sliced tomatoes, and then covered this layer with another of eggplant. With the oven blazing, they slipped in, softening over the flame into a flavorful roast.
Once cool, I added the vegetables to a salad of leafy greens and a sprinkling of blue cheese. Tossed, the vegetables' oil coated the lettuce and the cheese infused the mix with a rich, creamy flavor. It was the perfect tribute to vegetables of such good will.
EGGPLANT & TOMATO HERB ROAST
Grease a 9 by 13 inch Pyrex pan. Thinly slice 2-4 eggplants, depending on size, and toss in a bowl with 1/3 cup olive oil, and thyme, rosemary, and salt to taste. Layer closely over the bottom of the pan. Thinly slice 4-6 medium sized ripe tomatoes and layer over top eggplant. Continue layering until all eggplant and tomatoes are used up. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes; cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
For a good lunch, serve at room temperature over salad greens with 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese.