The word “eggplant” was first recorded in 1763 and was originally applied to the small white fruit/cultivars that look like eggs. Thought to have originated in India, eggplant has been cultivated since prehistory all over Asia and is a staple in many Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines. Eggplant is part of the nightshade family, and is composed of 92% water, 6% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and negligible fat. Eggplant provides small amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, with manganese being the most plentiful. It is naturally low in calories and when left unpeeled, eggplants provide some fiber.
Buying & Storing
When buying eggplant, hold the eggplant in your palm and gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh presses in and bounces back, it is mature. If the flesh is hard and does not give, the eggplant is too young to harvest. If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant is over-mature and could possibly be brown and bitter inside with large, tough seeds. Eggplants have a dimple at the blossom end that can be round or oval in shape. The round ones often have more seeds and tend to be less meaty, so select the oval dimpled eggplant.
Eggplant is best when fresh as it does not like cool temperatures and therefore does not store well. If you must store, keep unrefrigerated at a cool room temperature, or in the hydrator/crisper drawer of a refrigerator for a few days. Be careful not to store them in a refrigerator for too long as they will quickly develop soft brown spots and become bitter.
Roasted or cooked eggplant, and dishes made with eggplant, including ratatouille and baba ghanouj, freeze well in airtight containers or freezer bags. Eggplant is not suitable for drying or canning, though you can roast and then store eggplant in olive oil. Beyond that, freezing is the best method for home preservation. Cooking with Laura
Eggplant, Sweet Potato, And Chickpea Curry | Roasted Miso Eggplant with Greek Yogurt | Comforting Liberian Style Eggplant Stew | Almond-Crusted Baked Eggplant | Eggplant and Baby Arugula Salad | Roasted Garlicky Eggplant | Indian Spiced Mashed Eggplant
Prepare – wash the eggplant under cold water and gently wipe off the skin. If you need to break down the eggplant into cubes or slices, chop the top of the eggplant off to remove the crown and stem. While eggplant can be peeled, it is not essential.
To remove any acrid flavors and excess moisture, lightly salt slices, halves, or cubes of eggplant and let sit in a colander for 20-30 minutes. Beads of water will appear on the top of the flesh as the liquid is pulled out. This is called degorging, and reduces the water content which, in turn, reduces the amount of water leached out into the dish. If salting prior to cooking, rinse and pat dry to prevent excessive saltiness.
Grill – grill eggplant in almost any form: whole, halved, sliced, and cubed. Gently coat ½ -inch slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and flip after a few minutes. When grilling a whole eggplant, place on the hottest part of the grill to get a nice char all over.
Roast- use a fork to poke holes over a whole eggplant, and bake at 400°F for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender and skin is charred. The flesh can then be pureed and used in soups, dips, or sauces, and frozen for later use. Oil and season eggplant slices or cubes and spread out on a baking sheet and roast at 400°F for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender.
Steam – place whole eggplant in a pot with a steamer basket. Cover the pot and let the eggplant steam over 1- inch of water for 15-30 minutes depending on size. Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh to make dips, or slice/cube and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Stuff – slice raw eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh. Be sure to leave a little bit of flesh so that the skin holds its shape when baked. Add spices to the removed flesh, cook, then stuff the skins and bake at 350°F for 40-60 minutes.
Sauté – slice or cube the eggplant and season as desired. Sauté with olive oil until caramelization (browning) occurs and the pieces are tender. Sauté eggplant on its own or add other vegetables to it for a stir-fry, sauces, etc.
Fry – dip slices or whole eggplant in a favorite batter and lightly fry in vegetable oil.