“It’s the sound that is made when the eggplant explodes,” I tell my kids. I mean, why else wrap it so tightly in foil?
Gullible kids. I resort to these tricks to keep them out of my new kitchen. Sometimes, I just like it all to myself. It’s all over once they realize that the eggplant never really…explodes. I was only kidding after all, ’cause that’s what crazy moms do.
“Is it done yet?” they ask from the door, using it as a splatter shield.
“No. Not yet.” So silly.
Eggplant is neither an egg nor a plant. Like the tomato and capsicum (bell pepper), the aubergine is a fruit of the nightshade family of plants. It is really just a misunderstood berry. And quite a healthy one at that.
Watching American-types shop for eggplant at the grocery is sheer entertainment, rivaled only by the choosing of a melon. They’ll pick it up, turn it over, pat it, squeeze it, thump it — then put it down and walk away. Wha…? Perhaps they are considering what the heck to do with such a thing. After all, to pay $2.50 for a single piece of fruit, you better know what you plan on doing with it.
This little beauty is prized in the middle east, a staple in Mediterranean cooking.
Earlier this year, I planted six eggplant plants in several places in the yard. There was nothing vested, save the $6 I spent at the nursery and the ground that I “prepped” (a/k/a/ threw some compost on) and I figured that, like the tomatoes and peppers I planted at the same time, they wouldn’t make it through the scorching summer unattended. We expected to be gone for at least four months; it turned out to be five. And those 100-degree days were pretty harsh in August.
Oh, I do love being wrong sometimes.
Today, I picked our very last eggplant fruit. Since March, those six plants cranked out more than 50 beautiful little black beauties, half of which I gave away (I could only eat so much!). On the up side, they didn’t need me. On the down side, I wasn’t quite prepared with an aubergine recipe aresenal. Perhaps it’s safer to say my family was tired of grilled eggplant.
Grilling or roasting on high heat (broiler or 500-degree oven) is the easiest way to serve. I chose to grow the dark-skinned varieties because the skins contain nasunin — the “brain food” phytonutrient — and are particularly tasty to me. The crispiness of a grilled eggplant skin is hard to beat.
Here are some useful tidbits on the eggplant:
- High in potassium – regulates blood pressure and helps in proper hydration
- High in manganese – good for the bones
- Contains the phytonutrient nasunin – aids in several processes to fight free-radicals in the body
- Contains nicotine – uh…can you say “addiction?” (I can.)
I’ll admit that my absolute favorite (and naughty) way to eat eggplant is breaded and fried. I like to do the double-dip. That is, I dip in egg then dip in flour, then dip in egg again, and, lastly, dredge through whatever “outside crust” (pangko, stale bread, etc.) I have on hand. First peel it and slice into 1/4-inch thick patties. Lightly salting beforehand will help to remove the excess water; in an hour or so, you’re ready to fry. Ethical eggs are hard to come by, so we don’t do this much anymore.
Enter baba ganouj (pronouced BA-bah ga-NOOSH). Sal, my favorite local Lebanese chef, tells me to cook the eggplant right on the open flame, pricked with a fork and wrapped in three pieces of tin foil. Five minutes each side, turn four times until it’s mushy. Then, make something of a hummus out of it.
- One large roasted, peeled eggplant
- 2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed
- squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve with chips, pita, or bread slices.
Heaven. No explosions in the kitchen required to get there either.
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Put eggplant on your list for backyard veggies! So easy to grow.