Monday, June 20, 2011

VEGGIE REVIEW-Eggsustaintial Eggplant

They are he eggplants, who is the Walrus?
Meet my friends, the "regular" eggplants.

Unlike its Asian counterpart, this version is wide and squat and less sweet tasting...but don't take that as a negative.  What some people see as this veggie's lacks in social graces, is made up for in usefulness and versatility!

Like the Asians, these can be stir fried, coated, browned, baked, stuffed, dehydrated (with a little seasoning) and used in so many ways!  The flavor is very similar their skinnier cousins, although maybe not as sweet.

This gem's color is a deep, dark, almost-black purple, and is always wide and somewhat squat.

If you've never tried working with one, an eggplant can seem a bit intimidating.  But it really isn't.
A little imagination, a little patience and you can master it's many culinary possibilities!

Truth is, it's all in the preparation.  If you pay attention to a few key points, you'll have a dish worthy of being brought to your table.

Key Points:
     *Eggplant should be fresh.  If it looks dull, pocked, is excessively bruised or scratched it will taste sour. When looking for an eggplant, act like you're looking for an ornament to hang on your holiday tree.  You want a nice, smooth, shiny outer surface.
     *Check the "crown" of leaves around the top.  If they are black and feel a little slimy, the thing's been overexposed to water or chilled too much.  It might mean the inside is bad, too. The leaves can be dark, but they should still feel firm like leaves rather than like soggy rags.
     *Use the eggplant as soon as you can after bringing it home from the market. Freshness is very important. Old eggplant just plain tastes old, and no amount of seasoning will change that.
     *Avoid making the thing too wet if at all possible.  Some people slice the eggplant and put it in a sieve with a weight to remove the extra moisture before cooking with it. I've tried this a few times early in my eggplant cooking, but for the most part found it to be an unnecessary step.  In truth it seemed to promote moisture rather than stop it.
     *When cooking with eggplant, remember it will soak up moisture better than any sponge. This holds true for oil and grease as well.  To avoid this problem, before bringing eggplant to the pan for browning, either spray the pan with a release spray or evenly coat the pan with oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil or other) using a napkin to make sure the entire cooking surface is coated.
        Heat the pan with a medium flame before adding the eggplant.  Keep an eye on it!  Don't let it burn.

Scoring eggplant skin with fork
Some folks like to skin the eggplant before doing anything else, and that's understandable....the skin can be difficult to cut and perhaps even difficult for some to digest. Personally, I like to keep the skin on, but score it with a fork to make it easier to manage.

As far as recipe possibilities go, you'd be amazed..
Eggplant Parmesan, Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry, Grilled Eggplant and Eggplant Au Gratin are just a few to think about.

This purple beauty can be used as a substitute for bread, for meat and for pasta....and works great as an addition to stews, soups and casseroles. The only limit to it's potential is one's own imagination.

So if you haven't tried it yet, go ahead! See what all the fuss is about!