Cooking without rules

Let your imagination run wild with this recipe for aubergine spread.

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No Rules Aubergine Spread is a dish I named after a game I invented, called No Rules Scrabble. No Rules Scrabble is very easy and simple. The game is played like regular Scrabble for the most part, but players are allowed to make up their own words and define them how they wish. Every made-up word must be voted on and approved by the majority of players. Players can also count their words twice, once forward and once backward, as long as they are able to come up with an acceptable definition for the backward version of their word. For example, if I played the word “raneben,” referring to leftover ramen that has gone bad, I could also get points for the word “nebenar,” defining it as a rare Egyptian tea. Other rules can be added to the game, as long as everything is supported by the popular vote. This is the one rule of No Rules Scrabble. 

The last time I played No Rules Scrabble, I nailed a whopping 64 points in one turn by playing the word “eezeee” on some choice bonus squares. It helped that the word was also counted backwards for “eeezee.” The definitions for these two words were the same: “easy,” but spelled in a fun way. Convincing my friends to give me 64 entire points for this play was surprisingly not very hard. I was confident and insistent. 

I am not the cook in my family, or even the sous-chef. No Rules Aubergine Spread originated as a simple eggplant dip recipe I found on TikTok in the midst of an hours-long scrolling session. I saved the recipe when I saw the video only because I thought I would be able to make it, which is rare for me. I am, alas, a mere TikTok cook. 

Eggplant dip became No Rules Aubergine Spread when I decided to approach the recipe with the same attitude I approach No Rules Scrabble. I turned up the confidence and fun factors, put on some music, and let myself treat the eggplant dip recipe as only a reference.

Unfortunately, I could not have made the eggplant dip properly anyhow, as I do not own a food processor, blender, or even a masher. My mother owns all three, but I am staying in the summer home of an eccentric writer that I’ve only met a couple of times in my life. She has plenty of sugar, but left me without salt or pepper. I cannot live without salt, but I have yet to stock up on pepper, which would have definitely improved this dish as well.

I was underprepared, but I persevered, and you can too. Here are all the ingredients and gadgets you might want, but keep in mind, this is NO RULES Aubergine Spread. Follow your heart. It’s supposed to be eezeee. 

No Rules Aubergine Spread

You will “need:”
olive oil
butter
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. dried mint (or just a bunch of fresh mint)
salt and pepper
½ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup walnuts
bread for toast

Recommended: A blender, food processor, or masher. 

The mint situation

Although the recipe for eggplant dip called for dried mint, I ended up using fresh mint in the spread. Drying mint is easy enough, but as I was preparing this recipe, a good friend of mine by the name of Zelda Mayer insisted that people just use dried mint when they don’t have fresh mint. Although I am still not entirely convinced of this fact, there was no harm in throwing the mint in fresh (no rules). 

I began, then, by pan-frying the eggplant, which I peeled and cut into disks. In another pan I began caramelizing the onion with butter and salt. The eggplant discs absorbed the olive oil, and when they looked mushy enough, I set them aside and put on some more discs until I worked through both eggplants. When the onions were nearly done, I put the eggplants and onions into a pot and mashed them together as well as I could with the only tool I had at my disposal: a wooden spoon. 

I won’t lie and say that my spirits weren’t down at this point. It took a lot for me to power through. If you have a blender, food processor, or a masher, this would be the point to use them. Bless your soul. 

When I added in the garlic, the mint, and the salt, I started to feel a little better. The smells came together nicely. I let the dish simmer on the stove for a little while, 10 minutes at most, and then I added the yogurt, sprinkled some crushed walnuts on the top, and spread the mix on some toast. The flavor was good, the spices were necessary, and the texture resembled that of slugs. In the best way possible. Tasty slugs on toast. Perhaps this is not the most appetizing description, but it’s accurate, and my word is all I have as an up-and-coming reporter. 

I heartily recommend No Rules Aubergine Spread, especially if you have access to a blender, food processor, or masher, and pepper. 

 

Epilogue

In the trunk of my car lies a book titled “Cooking For One.” I have not yet opened it. It is the most depressing gift I have ever been given. It is from my mother. Completing this dish, with all its imperfections, gave me the confidence I needed to keep that book in the trunk of my car for at least another week or two, and for that, I am thankful.