Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is native to India. The early varieties were bitter, but cultivation and crossbreeding have greatly improved the flavor. Eggplant is related to potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
Eggplant isn't a particularly popular vegetable in the United States, but it's a favorite in many areas of the South. Thomas Jefferson, who experimented with many varieties of plants in his Virginia garden, is credited with introducing eggplant to North America.
Florida produces the bulk of the domestic harvest, and New Jersey is a major supplier during the summer months.
The dark purple eggplants are the most common type sold commercially in the United States. They weigh about 1 to 5 pounds each and come in two shapes: oval and elongated. The elongated variety is often referred to as the Japanese or oriental eggplant.
Specialty varieties include miniature eggplants that come in a variety of colors and shapes.
- Deep purple, round or oval eggplants are often nicknamed Italian or baby eggplants.
- Pale violet eggplant, usually slim and light, is nicknamed Chinese eggplant.
- Violet-white are Italian rosa biancos
- Japanese eggplants are younger versions of the large commercial purple type.
Eggplants are available all year. Their peak growing season in the United States is from July to October.
Look for a symmetrical eggplant with smooth, uniformly colored skin. Tan patches, scars, or bruises indicate decay. Also avoid eggplants with wrinkled or flabby-looking skin. Oversized purple eggplants, usually over 6 inches in diameter, may be tough and bitter.
When you press gently on an eggplant, the finger mark will disappear quickly if the eggplant is fresh. Eggplant should feel heavy; one that feels light for its size may not have a good flavor. The stem and cap should be bright green.
Both cold and warm temperatures can damage eggplant. It is best to store eggplant uncut and unwashed in a plastic bag in the cooler section of the refrigerator. Do not force the eggplant into the crisper if it is too big, as this will bruise the vegetable. Eggplant may be blanched or steamed then frozen for up to 6 months.
Wash the eggplant just before using it, and cut off the cap and stem. Use a stainless steel knife because carbon blades will discolor the eggplant. Eggplant should not be eaten raw. Eggplant may be cooked with or without its skin. However, large eggplant and most white varieties have thick, tough skin and should be peeled prior to cooking with a vegetable peeler.
Unlike many vegetables, eggplant is not harmed by long cooking. An undercooked eggplant can have a chewy texture; but overcooked eggplant is just very soft. Do not cook in an aluminum pot because the eggplant will become discolored.
Spices that enhance its flavor include allspice, basil, bay leaves, garlic, chili powder, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley. Eggplant is most often paired with tomatoes or onions.
Baking: To bake a whole eggplant, pierce the skin with a fork several times, and cook it at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Baking whole eggplants produces a soft flesh that is easy to mash or puree.
Broiling: Cut the eggplant into thick lengthwise slices, and score them lightly with a sharp knife. Place the slices on a broiler pan or grill; brush them lightly with oil. Broil about 5 inches from the heat, and turn slices when they begin to brown. Eggplant should be cooked for approximately 5 minutes per side.
Eggplant may also be microwaved whole, cubed, or sliced. Cooking times vary from 6 to 8 minutes for a whole eggplant to 3 or 4 minutes for a pound of cubed eggplant.
Stewed eggplant is called ratatouille. For this dish, eggplant may be stewed alone, or with other vegetables. Simmer, covered with a liquid such as tomato juice, until the eggplant is tender. The cooking time is usually 20 to 25 minutes.
Tie Pasta With Roasted Garlic And Eggplant
serving equals 2 1/4 cups of fruits or vegetables
The Garlic Cookbook - David DiResta
1 bulb garlic, roasted
6 cups eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
3 cups (about 3 medium) chopped tomatoes
1 package (12 ounces) dried large bow tie pasta
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Separate roasted garlic cloves, peel, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine eggplant, vinegar, 3 Tbsp olive oil, oregano, and pepper. Mix thoroughly and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Place eggplant mixture, with liquid, on a baking pan. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 25 minutes. Stir every 5 to 6 minutes. About 10 minutes before eggplant is completely cooked, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add tomatoes and garlic. Sautè for 5 minutes. At the same time, cook pasta in a pot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and divide cooked pasta on 4 serving plates. Cover pasta with roasted eggplant. Cover with equal portions of tomato-garlic mixture and top with parsley. Serve immediately sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 539, Fat 17g, Calories from Fat 28%, Carbohydrates 81g, Cholesterol 5mg, Fiber 6g, Sodium 139g.
Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Each serving equals 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables
2 large eggplants (1¼ lbs)
2 level Tbsp tahini
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with salt
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or more to taste
3 to 4 Tbsp cold water
¼ tsp salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup tomato, chopped
½ cup onion, diced
the eggplants in several places with a toothpick. If you are cooking indoors,
wrap the whole eggplant in aluminum foil and set it over a gas grill to cook on
all sides until it collapses and begins to release a great deal of steam. If you
are cooking over coals, grill the eggplant until blackened, collapsed, and cooked
Dump the eggplant into a basin of cold water; peel while it’s still hot and allow it to drain in a colander until cool. Squeeze pulp to remove any bitter juices. Mash the eggplant to a puree.
In a food processor, mix the tahini with the garlic, onion, tomato, and lemon juice until the mixture contracts. Thin with the water. With the machine running, add the eggplant and the salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Spread out in a shallow dish and garnish with pepper, parsley, and tomatoes.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 76, Fat 2g, Calories from Fat 24%, Protein 2g, Cholesterol 0mg, Fiber 4g, Sodium 84mg.
Each serving equals 2 cups of fruit or vegetables
1½ cups bread crumbs
2 tomatoes, diced
½ cup green bell pepper, diced
½ cup onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
1/8 Tbsp. salt
¼ Tbsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
Vegetable cooking spray
oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out and save the flesh, leaving the shells 3/8-inch thick. If necessary, trim a small piece off the bottom of each shell so it won't tip over. Set aside.
Coat large skillet with vegetable cooking spray. Chop up reserved eggplant and add to skillet. Add tomato, bell pepper, onion, celery, salt, and black pepper. Place skillet over medium heat; cover and cook about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Remove skillet from heat. Stir in bread crumbs and parsley. Spoon mixture into the hollow eggplant shells.
Arrange stuffed shells in a shallow baking dish coated with vegetable spray. Sprinkle 1½ tsps Parmesan on top of each shell. Bake for 25 minutes, until filling heats through and top is golden brown.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 269, Fat 3g, Calories from Fat 10%, Protein 9g, Carbohydrates 52g, Cholesterol 1mg, Fiber 9g, Sodium 419mg.
Each serving equals 2 cups of fruit or vegetables
2 egg whites
2½ lbs eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4"-thick slices
½ cup plain dried bread crumbs
Olive oil spray
1 cup tomatoes, chopped with their juice
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic
½ cup onion, chopped
the oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking
In a shallow dish, beat the egg whites and 2 Tbsps of water until foamy. Dip eggplant into egg whites, then into bread crumbs, pressing crumbs into eggplant.
Place eggplant on prepared baking sheet and spray oil over eggplant slices. Bake 30 minutes, turning eggplant over after 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Sautè the onions and garlic with oil spray. In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes and their juice, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions. Spoon 3 Tbsps of tomato mixture into bottom of 9" square glass baking dish. Place half of eggplant over sauce; spoon half of remaining tomato mixture over eggplant; and sprinkle half of mozzarella on top. Repeat with remaining eggplant, tomato mixture, and mozzarella.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake for 20 minutes, or until eggplant is piping hot and sauce is bubbly.
Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 274, Fat 6g, Calories from Fat 20%, Protein 18g, Carbohydrates 35g, Cholesterol 20mg, Fiber 8g, Sodium 427mg.