Eggplant

Eggplant

Eggplant rocks.  It’s a most glorious veggie (technically a berry).  I’ve found that most people either love it or hate it…but if you’re a hater it is probably due to poor execution.  TRY IT AGAIN!  Eggplant is so versatile and there are so many varieties, you need to expand your repertoire.  Play with new recipes, play with new varieties, go for some of the funky ones you can find at any health food store, farmer’s market or Asian grocery.  The little green and white striped round ones, the long skinny Japanese, Chinese, Filipino varieties, the small, raven-skinned, traditional aubergine—this is the stuff I dream about!

Popular in Mediterranean food, the eggplant in the USA somehow became synonymous with Italian food (the culprit must’ve been that Southern Italian/American classic eggplant parmesan).  But if that’s all you know when it comes to eggplant, please do your taste buds a favor and expand their horizons!  Eggplant plays a starring role all the time, from the amazing baba ganoush and moussaka to incredible stir fries and curries (which makes perfect sense as Eggplant originated in South Asia).  It is delicious fried, baked, grilled…the varieties, recipes, methods are just endless and the bottom line is THIS IS GREAT FOOD!

Damn these are good for you!  I was shocked to read up on the nutritional value of my friend the eggplant. Loads of folic acid, potassium, and one of the top ten antioxidants out there.  The SKIN is key in that antioxidant fix, so don’t peel it all away in your prep.  One interesting thing I learned about eggplant is that they are closely related to tobacco and actually contain trace amounts of nicotine (though you’d have to eat 20 lbs to equal one cigarette).

On the show I display how to prep your traditional, bulky, raven-colored eggplant; one of the most common varieties found in the USA.  I took about half the skin off for aesthetic reasons—they look beautiful that way.  To fight the bitter flavor sometimes present in big eggplant, I salted and sweated the beasts.  Simply add a good pinch (1/2 tsp) of salt to each side of your eggplant slices and place them in a colander to leach water.  After about a half hour wipe off the salt with a towel.  Remember, your smaller, younger ones and all those Asian varieties are sweeter with no bitterness and thus need no salting.

Now you are ready to cook.  Do what you want–stir fry, bake, deep fry, broil, roast…on the show I grilled my eggplant.  I think they make a great dish by themselves this way—a must have for any platter of roasted/grilled veggies, especially when splashed with a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt-n-pepper.  The searing of a grill adds a little smoky profile making a great meat substitute for the vegetarians out there.

The master recipe on this episode is Vegetable Napoleons and it is a killer!  Rock this baby out!  So simple and so impressive!  Check the recipe…I’ll walk you all the way through the steps.  A really easy and impressive dish to wow your veggie and non-veggie amigos with!  I’d say this is some serious “date food” too, you know the type of meal you want to present to someone so that they’ll instantly fall in love with you and eggplant?  I speak from experience!