Monday, July 14, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Eggplant

I never ate eggplant as a kid and have only had it, I believe, once in my adult life.  The dish I ate was Italian, I believe.  The eggplant was sliced very thin, stuffed with a cheese mixture and covered with a tomato sauce.  I do remember it being quite delicious, even to the point that I went back later for seconds, which I didn't even bother to heat.  I don't know why, but I've just not tried ordering eggplant dishes while dining out nor have I tried cooking with it.  After reading this information, I just might give it a try.

According to a 1982 cookbook titled The Silver Palate the eggplant originated in tropical Asia and was gradually adopted by Near-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, where it is now very much at home.  This rich, dark purple, due to its subtle and elusive flavor is best when combined with stronger-flavored vegetables and seasonings.

Eggplant is versatile and available year-round but buy only those that are firm, shiny and free form wrinkles and blemishes.  Store them for no more than a day or two.  They contain a lot of moisture which can be bitter and the eggplant has a tendency to soak up tremendous amounts of oil or butter when sauteed.  Salting or occasionally blanching, will eliminate both problems.  Cut the eggplant as directed in each recipe; there is usually no need to peel it.  Layer into a colander, salting generously as you go.  The eggplant should stand for about 1 hour while it exudes its juices.  Rinse off the salt and pat it thoroughly dry on paper towels before processing with the recipe.  Blanching for a minute or two in boiling salted water is faster; while more tender eggplant is the results, it can reduce the vegetable's already subtle flavor.

When sauteing eggplant, use only as much oil as directed in the recipe, or the minimum necessary to coat the skillet, and be sure the skillet is quite hot before the eggplant is added.  Toss or turn the pieces as you add them to coat all sides evenly with oil.  DO NOT ADD ANY MORE OIL.  Even after the salting procedure, eggplant can absorb an amazing amount of oil and the resulting dish could be greasy.  If the skillet seems dry, merely stir or turn the eggplant more frequently until properly browned.   Drain on paper towels and proceed with the recipe.
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