Sounds from the Attic [Harissa-Stuffed Eggplants]

There’s something astir in the attic of my building.

My place being on the top floor, I can hear whatever it is making noises, like clockwork, most nights around 10 p.m.

It sounds like human footsteps — heavy, rhythmic. A rolling noise. Something heavy being pushed across the floor…butting up against the wall. And back again across the floor. No voices.

I’ve been hearing this since we moved in three months ago. It’s usually just before m hay gets home, when I’m getting ready for bed.

The sounds very distinctly come from above and are best heard in the bedroom.

It’s odd because there is no full attic, only a crawlspace.

The landlord says none of the tenants have access to the crawlspace.

Saying it could be animals, he set traps on Tuesday.

But I still heard the noises last night.

Ghost story?

I believe in spirits and wouldn’t be surprised if there was one inhabiting my building.

The building is 160 years old; it was the first one built on the street.

I plan to go to the City of Ottawa Archives to see what I can dig up on the building and its previous inhabitants.

I’ll keep you posted.

Now, let’s talk eggplants.

Eggplant was foreign to me until I started cooking for myself.

My only exposure to eggplant until I was 13 years old was the knowledge that it was my Grade 2 teacher, Mme. Wilkie’s, favourite vegetable.

Mme. Wilkie’s bright red hair always comes to mind when I make eggplant.

Time and practice have taught me that eggplant is like meat.

It needs to be cooked and treated gently. For goodness’ sake, put those tongs down!

Eggplants need to cook slowly, too. Don’t put eggplant on full fire.

A well-prepared eggplant has a custard-like texture. If your eggplant is completely falling apart, it has been abused and overcooked.

Emersing the eggplants in a salt bath helps to reduce their bitter flavour.

Put another bowl of water on top of the eggplants to keep them submerged in the salty water.

Of course the number one thing to remember is that eggplants need to be salted and left to seep out their bitter water before cooking. You can spread salt directly on them, or emerse them in very salty water. Leave them for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes to an hour.

As for this particular eggplant recipe, I would say that it is successful. I had never made a harissa-stuffed eggplant before, but the two components sounded very appealing.

First, I had to make the harissa.

Harissa ingredients: garlic, dried red chilies, mint, olive oil, coriander seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds.

Harissa is a hot chili sauce commonly eaten in North Africa and its environs.

Soak the dried red chilies to soften their flesh.

Coriander seeds. Left: untoasted. Right: toasted.

Pound together the ginger, spices and tomato paste in a mortar and pestle.

Harissa.

I opted to include mint in my harissa, as the flavours of  mint and eggplant work well together.

The recipes for both the harissa and the harissa-stuffed eggplants can be found here, on ecurry.com.

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