Almost every culture has some version of a dish that includes eggplant. Italians have eggplant parmesan, Greeks have moussaka, the French have ratatouille, and the Middle East has baba ghanoush, just to name a few. There are multiple varieties of eggplants and even more ways to prepare them. Use this quick guide to choosing and preparing eggplants to make delicious use of one of the tastiest summer vegetables.
Western Eggplant: most common, purple skin, large, oval shapedItalian: smaller in size, deep mauve, with white streaksJapanese: small in size, white with purple stripesDourga: small and long, shiny white, thick skinChinese purple: purple in color, long and oval in shapeBÃ©langÃ¨re: purple skin with white streaks and short and round in shapeBaby Eggplant: miniature in size, can be any colorThere are also pink and green varieties that are less common.
Eggplants can be found in the grocery store just about year round, but they are in peak season from about July to October. When purchasing an eggplant, look for ones that are smaller-sized, they will have fewer seeds and less bitterness. The tops should be bright green. Choose eggplants that have firm, smooth skin with no blemishes.Gently push your finger into the eggplant and if it gives slightly and bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation stays, it is too ripe. If the skin does not give, the eggplant is not ripe enough. The eggplant should also be heavy for its size. Knock on the eggplant with your knuckles — if it is hollow, it is too dry.Eggplants also show their gender. Female eggplants tend to have more seeds than males do, so if possible, look for male eggplants. You can tell he difference by looking at the indentation on the bottom, if it is deep and oval shaped it is female, males have a round, shallow indentation.
STORING AND PREPARING
The longer you hold onto your eggplant, the more bitter it will become. Since there is no way of telling how long it has been since it was picked, you should eat eggplants within one to two days of purchase. They should either be stored in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.Young eggplant (ones that are smaller in size) have thin, edible skin. Older, larger eggplants have thick, tough skin and should be peeled before eaten. The flesh of an eggplant discolors quickly, so it should be sliced just before you are ready to eat or cook it.
According to Merry and Alan Richon of Seasonal Cooking on the Coast, the need to salt an eggplant is debatable. They say, “The debate about salting eggplant to remove the bitter taste still rages with opinions on both sides of the argument. We have found that salting, rinsing and drying the eggplant seems to cut down on the amount of oil that is needed in the cooking process.”
Makes 4 servingsIngredients:
2 large eggplants, diced
1 large red pepper, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
2 medium red onions, diced
3 tablespoons garlic, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup tomato puree
4 tablespoons capers, divided (half chopped, half whole)
6 anchovy fillets, minced
1 bunch basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper to tasteDirections:
1. Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. SautÃ© eggplant, in two batches, until browned. Set aside in a bowl.2. Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil and sautÃ© peppers until soft. Add to eggplant.3. SautÃ© onions and garlic until tender, not browned. Mix in brown sugar and vinegar and cook 2 minutes. Mix in tomato puree and cook until thick.4. Toss sauce with eggplant and pepper mixture in bowl and top with capers, anchovies, basil and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with crackers or mini breads.
Turkey Eggplant Chili
Makes 4 servingsIngredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1 tablespoon chile powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound ground turkey
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cuminDirections:
1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. SautÃ© onion, eggplant, chile powder and cayenne pepper about 7 minutes until vegetables are tender.2. Add turkey meat to the pan and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.3. Mix in beans, tomato sauce, celery, peppers, garlic and cumin. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Serve hot.
Makes 6 servingsIngredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced into thick stripsDirections:
1. Combine flour, cornmeal, cayenne, salt and pepper. Put eggs in another bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip eggplant into egg, then into flour mixture, then back into the egg, and finally back into the flour mixture. Place eggplant into oil and fry until golden brown, flipping if necessary. Dip and fry eggplant strips a few at a time. Serve right away.For more eggplant recipes, visit these links:
Recipes to jumpstart labor: Eggplant Parmesan