Summer offers a variety of fresh vegetables and one that is often overlooked is the eggplant.
Also known as aubergines, their royal color ranges from lavender to deep, dark purple. These beautiful violet vegetables sport a shiny skin and spongy-white flesh.
The eggplant plant grows tall with big green leaves, fuzzy stems and star-shaped purple flowers. After blooming, the stems close around the flower and the eggplant begins to form.
Their size varies as much as their color. Some varieties, such as Japanese eggplants, are long and thin. The variety that most often appears in grocery stores is the globe eggplants.
The globes typically contain the most seeds and, thus, a more bitter flavor. Smaller varieties, such as Japanese, Oriental, Italian, White and Rose contain fewer seeds and have a mild and sweet flavor.
Many recipes suggest heavy salting of eggplant slices before cooking. Salt the slices on both sides and then place on paper towels. Let sit for 10 minutes and then turn over. After another ten minutes, the slices can be rinsed and patted dry.
This method is recommended when using globe eggplants but is not necessary with the smaller varieties. The salting method extracts some of the bitter juices and makes the cooked eggplant more palatable.
Another little known fact is the sex of the eggplant can determine bitterness. The female eggplants are more bitter than the male eggplants.
The sex can be determined by looking at the base of the eggplant. Each one will have an indentation. The indentation on the female eggplant is shaped like a dash and the male indentation is round. The male eggplants have fewer seeds than the female eggplants.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Place two racks in the upper and middle thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Insert a wire rack into a large baking sheet. Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Combine the Panko and the Parmesan in another medium bowl. Slice off both ends of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and slice each half into 1/2-to-3/4-inch thick layers, then cut each layer into 1/2-inch sticks. After all of the fries are cut, drop them into the flour and lightly toss them to coat evenly. Working in batches of a few at a time, dip the floured fries into the egg and then into the panko mixture. Place the fries on the wire rack in the baking sheet, leaving an 1/8-inch space between each fry. Bake the fries until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Season the fries with the remaining salt and serve with ketchup.
Recipe from foodnetwork.com
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan
2 large eggplants
Olive oil, for basting
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup cubed mozzarella
Whole basil leaves, for garnish
Grated parmesan, for sprinkling
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat a grill pan to high. Slice eggplants into 1 inch thick slices. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil. Grill on both sides. About a minute per side, to partially cook and achieve good grill marks. Remove from the grill and set on a sheet pan. Mix the tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, salt and pepper in a bowl. Spoon a mound of the tomato mixture onto the top of each eggplant slice. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Heat a broiler to high and broil until cheese begins to melt. About a minute. Do not walk away or the cheese may burn. Remove and garnish with additional cheese, black pepper and whole basil leaves. Serve immediately.
4 eggplants, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 slices stale bread
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup marinara
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 cup canola oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil eggplant until it is soft. Lay the bread out on a plate and pour milk over it. Let the milk soak into the bread. Squeeze out the bread and tear it into pieces. Drain the eggplant, place in a colander and press the water out of the eggplant. Roughly chop the eggplant. Place in a large bowl and add the bread, parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, marinara, salt and pepper. With clean hands completely combine the mixture and begin forming into balls. Spread the bread crumbs onto a plate. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the balls to the skillet and cook for about six minutes. While cooking roll the balls around the pan with a wooden spoon until browned on all sides. Remove the balls from the pan and let drain on a paper towel before serving. Serve with pasta and your favorite marinara and garnish with parmesan cheese.
Recipe by Christine Gardner
Honey Roasted Eggplant
4 or 5 small eggplants, halved, or 2 large eggplants, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss eggplants with honey and oil to coat. Roast eggplants (skin sides up) on a rimmed baking sheet until eggplants is golden, about 20 minutes (if using cubes of eggplant. Stir once every 5 to 7 minutes). Flip and roast until eggplant softens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Recipe from marthastewart.com
3 medium-sized eggplants (about 4 pounds total)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper vegetable spray
32 ounces ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
8 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
20 basil leaves, chiffonade slice
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 cups tomato sauce
Preheat the grill pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a rack over a large baking sheet. Cut the 2 ends off the eggplant. Cut the eggplants lengthwise, into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange eggplant slices onto rack. Sprinkle with sea salt to help remove excess moisture and any bitterness from the eggplants. Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off the salt from the eggplants and pat dry with a towel. Spray hot grill pan liberally with vegetable spray and then place eggplant slices on the grill until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Remove slices from the grill pan and allow to cool. In a large bowl, beat eggs until lightly scrambled. Mix the ricotta in with the egg. Add mozzarella, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts and gently combine. Fold in basil just to combine. Do not overmix. Place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on 1 end of the eggplant and roll up tightly. Place the eggplant rolls into a greased (with olive oil) 13-by-9 inch baking dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining eggplant. Evenly distribute the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 5 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes.
Recipe by Christine Gardner