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Eggplant - The King of Vegetables
June 5 (Saturday) Cooking Ingredients: Fruits or Vegetables
How do I cook eggplant at home? It can be boiled, fried, grilled, roasted or baked. Depending upon your budget, you can make this humble vegetable into becoming the chef’s choice of the day or even the whole year round. Because of it’s versatility, many cooks, like me, experiment on new dishes associated with this ‘miracle vegetable’.
Eggplants come in many varieties. There’s the bell type, a pear-like shape (the most common), which grows as big as a butternut squash (varieties include Jersey King, Classic and High Bush Select). There’s the cylindrical type, resembling like large English cucumbers (varieties: Mirabel, Vernal and Mini-Fingers), and the Sicilian type, more rounded and can grow as big as a pepper squash (Murina, Black Beauty and Italian Pink Bicolor). Other varieties resemble the bell type in shape, but have a creamy white skin (Ghostbuster and Caspar varieties) plus the minis, golf-sized Baby Bell and dill pickle-like Little Finger.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family along with peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. It must rank among the most popular edible fruits in the world, since it is enjoyed throughout the Far East, Europe, the Americas and the Latin countries. The eggplant’s color varies from white to almost jet-black, with the most common color, purple or violet.
No doubt about it, its popularity stems from eggplant’s pleasingly bitter taste, agreeable texture and peerless versatility. It can be prepared whole (skin intact), peeled, sliced or chopped. The Turks and Balkans thread cubed eggplant onto shish kebabs (barbecue), or, alternately, char it black then mash it with onion, tomatoes and green pepper. Surprise! They already have “a poor man’s caviar”.
Popular Mediterranean dishes include eggplant parmigiana, ratatouille, moussaka, eggplant stuffed with rice, and hot and sour Spanish eggplant.
Eggplant can be broiled,, grilled, pan-fried, baked, stir-fried, incorporated into curries or fashioned into fritters, Indian style. As a Filipino, I am fond of cooking eggplant with coconut milk, frying it with soya sauce as dip, or just boil it and enhance the taste with lemon juice or tomatoes. The most common in Filipino eatery is the egg-coated fried eggplant (we call it tortang talong).
Pointers when buying, preparing and cooking eggplant
I usually slice eggplant, then soak it in a salted, cold water for at least half hour or so to lessen the bitter taste, then drain it for another half hour.
Choose and buy the organically-produced eggplants. It has lesser bitter taste than those commercially-grown eggplant which is contaminated with chemicals.
Look for plump, heavy, unwrinkled eggplant that feel quite firm to the touch. Reject any that are wilted, shriveled or soft with blemishes or signs of bruising or decay.
It can be stored for several days, unwrapped in a refrigerator vegetable crisper at 7 C to 10 C.
When cutting or chopping it, use a stainless-steel knife, since carbon-steel utensils can cause discoloration and a bitter aftertaste.