Eggplant, Aubergine or Guinea Squash is a FRUIT, not a vegetable, and is a member of the Nightshade Family. Once thought to be extremely dangerous to eat, and native to India, eggplant are commonly cultivated all over the world. The eggplant comes in a variety of sizes and colors. The name eggplant is used in the United States, rather than the more common aubergine, is probably due to some varieties of eggplants that are small, goose-egged shape and pale yellow or white.
Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, but when cooked becomes complex with a mildly smoky flavor. The process of degorging is essential to produce a crispy and not greasy final result.
Degorging is done by salting sliced eggplant and allowing the water to be purged out of the fruit. The degorging collapses the cells that hold the water and prevents the eggplant from absorbing oil during the cooking process. Degorging is not done to remove bitter juices.
Eggplants are effective in treating high blood pressure and are thought to be a good source of potassium and folic acid.
From Ratatouille to Babaghanoush, eggplants are versatile and are a staple in many cuisines around the world. Summer is the best time of the year for eggplant, so scoop them up while you can and experiment with one of the most versatile fruits in global cuisine.
So many recipes and so little time. Eggplant is having its moment and we are all craving dips, pastas, pizzas and salads made from this purple thistle. Salatim are Israel’s version of mezze or small plates and can start many a meal in Israel, especially those that involve grilled meats and laffa breads. Eggplant and its infinite possibilities plays a starring role on all Israeli tables.
Here are some tips, tricks and recipes to help you take advantage of this tasty member of the nightshade family.
How to Pick an Eggplant
- Bigger is not better - Opt for a smaller eggplant. The younger the fruit the sweeter it will be.
- Choose one that feels heavy for its size. Eggplants that feel light might be past their prime.
- The skin should be smooth and shiny. When you push your thumb into the skin it should create a slight indent, but spring back.
- The stem should be green and not brown.
Types of Eggplants
- Chinese and Japanese eggplants - These are long and slender, and creamy when cooked.
- Baby eggplants - These are tender and great for stuffing.
- Graffiti eggplant - This heirloom variety has beautiful purple striations and it takes on a rich, fruity flavor when cooked.
- Globe eggplant - This is the traditional eggplant and the one we’re using here today.
To Salt or No To Salt
Salting eggplant does much more than draw out bitter juices. Salting eggplant draws out water (eggplants are 70%+ water) and causes the eggplant’s cells to collapse. When the cells are collapsed, they won’t become filled with oil from frying or roasting, yielding a tasty and NOT greasy eggplant.
The process is as follows: Slice eggplant into 1-inch thick rounds or lengthwise into slices. Cover the surface with kosher or sea salt. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Rinse and pat dry. The eggplant will crisp up and be flavorful without being soggy.
Best Ways to Prepare Eggplant
Roasted or Charred
- Eggplant, when roasted, grilled or charred has a wonderful smoky flavor. For the best tasting eggplant, choose those that are medium sized and feel heavy for their size, (these eggplant will be sweeter, have thinner skin and have less seeds).
- To roast eggplant, follow the procedures below.
How To Roast Eggplant In The Oven
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Slice an eggplant lengthwise. Drizzle skin side and cut sides with evoo. Place cut side down on lined pan and roast for 30-40 minutes until very soft and the skin wrinkled and dark.
- Scoop the flesh into a colander and allow liquid to drain out for at least an hour or up to 1 day. The liquid is bitter and dark and waters down the baba, so best not to skip this step.
How To Roast and Eggplant on a Stovetop
Similar to charring on a grill over an open flame, stovetop charring will yield an off the chain smoky eggplant thus giving you a smoky, charred babaghanoush, the most famous of all Israeli eggplant salatim.
1. Prick eggplant all over with a fork.
2. Wrap tightly in foil and char, stovetop, over a flame.
3. Turn every 10 minutes os so, until completely charred. After 10 minutes, gently peel back the foil and see if your eggplant is charred. If not, wrap it back up and continue charring over the burner.
From roasted eggplant to Baba Ghanoush
- Baba Ghanoush is a smoky, creamy and delicious dip. The recipe is simple and with few ingredients. The list of possible garnishes is only limited to your imagination and tells the story of eggplant’s versatility. Master this recipe and you will have an infinite variety of salads and dips.
- Mayo or tahini? Potato or Po-tah-to? It’s up to you! Both have merits and I am sure the ocean and several thousand air miles determine your preference. Tahini has a more pronounced and pleasant bitter flavor that is savory and delicious. Mayo is neutral and adds a rich fattiness to the recipe.
Now check out 13 other ways to use the eggplant you now know how to cook perfectly.