Jun 1, 2010

Eggplant

by Ellen Wilson


How to Cook with Eggplant
I would assume that when most people hear "eggplant," they immediately think of Eggplant Parmesan.  Or just think "yuck!" MIX! is here to offer some tasty alternatives to cooking eggplant beyond the heavily-breaded Eggplant Parmesan. Since eggplants are currently in season, you can find them at your local Farmers' Market or grocery store.

When choosing an eggplant, look for a smaller eggplant with a shallow and round indentation on the bottom. Smaller eggplants tend to have fewer seeds and are less bitter. The skin should also be shiny and firm; when you press it with your finger, it should give a little before bouncing back.  Avoid eggplants that have soft spots or are starting to brown.  An eggplant should be used within the first few days because they become bitter with age.

For most recipes, you'll be slicing the eggplant. Cut off the top and bottom and discard. After you've cut the eggplant into slices or disks, place it in a colander and sprinkle salt over the pieces. Let it sit for a half an hour to drain some of the bitter juices out of the pieces. Rinse and then dry before beginning to prepare the eggplant according to your recipe.

If you can't break from the norm, at least break from the standard breaded Eggplant Parmesan and eliminate the breading. Enjoy the flavor eggplant soaks up from the marinara sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs, if available.  Or if you're feeling adventurous, try your hand at making the famous French dish, Ratatouille.
For other easy dishes, the best way to start is to roast the eggplant slices on the grill or under the broiler. Once roasted, you can use it atop pasta, pizza, or sandwiches.

Grill a few more vegetables and serve it with hummus on a bagel. You can also roast it whole, for recipes such as Baba Ganoush, an Arab dip served with pita bread. Pierce the skin several times with a fork and then roast on high under the broiler, or on the grill, for about 25-35 minutes. The skin should be black and the eggplant should shrivel.

When roasting a whole eggplant, you probably won't be using the skin. Most recipes will require scraping out the insides of the roasted eggplant.

Don't let the purple skin scare you. Add eggplant recipes to your repertoire and not only will you discover there's nothing to fear, but your mom will be so proud.

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