Eggplant Uninspiring? Here’s A Medley Of Ways To Cook It

Did you know eggplant is actually a fruit (though served as a vegetable)? With it’s deep, glossy purple skin and wobbly egg or pear shape, it’s quite a unique looking food item that hints at an enticing flavor…but it’s actually pretty mild.

If you’ve never cooked with it before and aren’t sure how, here are four basic methods for preparing it (stewed, fried, baked & stuffed, grilled).

Then if you’d like to stock up your recipe box and are looking for a few new dishes to try, you’ll find over a dozen goodies to test and tweak below. Plenty here, enjoy!

Preparation Tips:

  • Select those that are firm to the touch, avoid any that are soft/squishy or dimple when pressure is applied. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
  • When stuffing, leave skins on but after cutting in half lengthwise, remove seeds and softer portions of pulp.
  • For other approaches, pare them, cut in slices or cubes then cook as desired.

Methods

Stewed – Method #1

  • Cover bottom of pot with boiling water to depth of 1 inch and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover tightly and bring to rapid boil.
  • Once water is boiling, add prepared pieces; cover tightly and cook rapidly for 5 minutes, or until just tender.
  • Drain, and re-heat in desired sauce, such as cream, tomato, cheese, or use in casserole dishes.

Fried – #2

  • Pare and slice as directed above.
  • Pre-cook for 5 minutes in small quantity of boiling salted water; drain.
  • Dip in slightly beaten egg to which as been added 1 tablespoon of cold water then dip in breadcrumbs, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs.
  • Saute pieces in 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot bacon or meat dripping in frying pan for about 12 minutes, turning occasionally (other vegetable oils or fats may be used if preferred).

Baked Stuffed – #3

  • Cut in half lengthwise, then parboil for 15 minutes in boiling salted water.
  • Remove pulp to within about 1/2 inch of skin, chop pulp fine and add to 2 cups desired stuffing (one you can try: 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs, 1 cup of ground cooked meat, 4 tablespoons of finely chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of bacon dripping, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, few grains of pepper), blend dressing thoroughly, and season lightly with salt and pepper; fill shells with mixture.
  • Sprinkle top thickly with buttered breadcrumbs, place stuffed shells in lightly greased baking pan, adding 1/4 cup of boiling water to pan.
  • Bake in a hot oven–400 degrees, for about 15 minutes or until it is very soft.

Grilled – #4

  • Cut into slices lengthwise about 1/2″ thick (leave skin on).
  • Brush pieces with flavored olive oil on all sides (garlic is good) then place on hot grill (medium heat).
  • Turn frequently and brush with oil each time you turn to prevent charring.
  • Remove from heat when tender then season with salt and serve.

Recipes

*Summaries are quotes/adaptations from website sources

  • Simple Baba Ganoush: Can be made by anyone anywhere with access to a broiler: True! What’s it taste like? Uber creamy, decadent, slightly sweet and the perfect balance of savory and tangy from the lemon and tahini. It’s so lush and creamy you can hardly believe it’s vegan and doesn’t require gobs of oil. Minimalist Baker.
  • Turkish Casserole W/Tomatoes: A perfect vegetarian weeknight dinner. It’s great for making ahead of time, as the flavors only get better. Feed Me Phoebe.
  • Mooshi’s Salad: Healthy vegan salad recipe from Israel that includes peppers and tomato sauce. Kosher, Pareve, vegetarian, diet friendly, gluten free. Tori Avey.
  • Garlic Parmesan: Crispy baked, not fried, with Parmesan coating. A delicious way to enjoy this fall vegetable! Crunchy Creamy Sweet.
  • Chinese w/Garlic Sauce: Grilled until crispy and smoky, and then simmered in a rich savory sauce. This vegan dish is very satisfying, both as a side or a main dish over rice or noodles. {Gluten-Free Adaptable} Omnivore’s Cookbook.
  • Silky Sweet & Sour Caponata : A sweet, salty and vinegary mixture that includes onion, celery, capers and olives. It’s chunky and silky and pairs well with fresh ricotta on top of crunchy French or Italian bread or even fat breadsticks. It can be enjoyed cold, warm or hot. Food52.
  • Cheesy: This can make an excellent side but it is so filling and substantial, that I often serve it as a meatless entree, in which case I divide the casserole into two portions instead of four, and accompany it with a green salad.
  • Stuffed (Indian Spiced): They can be a complete meal, but if you are feeling extra energetic, make this dish part of a multicourse Indian feast along with curried vegetables, basmati rice, yogurt salad, naan. Eating Well.
  • Grilled (w/garlic, cumin & feta): Serves 4 to 6 as a side, ingredients include fresh lemon juice, finely diced shallot, cumin seed, a pinch of cayenne, crumbled feta, chopped mint and cilantro. FineCooking.
  • Chez Panisse Pasta Dish: I tell you, and please trust me on this, that you will not be able to stop eating it. Once you’ve put it all together, and you take that first bite of perfectly al dente wheat pasta that’s slicked with a little good olive oil and sherry vinegar, and bite into the succulent, slightly salty chunks of mushrooms and eggplant, and the onions will crunch and the feta will obligingly melt on your tongue and the earthy smell of cilantro will top it all off…What I’m trying to say here is that you will really want some alone time with this. Confessions of a Tart.
  • Spicy Pasta: Ingredients include chopped onion, minced garlic, tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, basil & linguine. Food52.
  • Moussaka Recipe: Yields 8, ingredients include butter, thickly sliced button mushrooms, dry red wine, flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped basil and oregano, ground cinnamon, tomato paste, grated parmigiano-reggiano, eggs, flour and milk. Found at Saveur.
  • Ina Garten’s Gratin Recipe: Made with ricotta cheese, egg, half-and-half, grated Parmesan and a good bottled marinara. Found at Food Network.
  • Spiced Salad: She declared this to be one of her favorite dishes. I can see why: it’s made of cheap, readily available ingredients, and yet it has all the flair and sophistication of a more refined dish. Amateur Gourmet.
  • Creamy Creole Casserole (vegan): It won’t win any beauty contests, but you’ll be amazed at how luscious, creamy, and richly seasoned it is. Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.
  • Grilled Panini: Made with reduced-fat mayonnaise, basil, extra-virgin olive oil, whole-grain country bread, fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers (jar) and red onion. Found at Eating Well.
  • Parmesan (w/crisp breadcrumb topping): This is all it should be: delicate slices of fried eggplant nestled in a bright, tangy tomato sauce, layered gooey fresh mozzarella. The best part is the exceptionally crisp breadcrumb topping. Food & Wine.
  • Rustic Bread Lasagna: 9 to 12 portions, ingredients include minced garlic (optional), tomatoes (both canned and fresh), dried Italian herbs, olive oil, large pieces of sourdough bread and garnished with basil. Found at Vegan Yum Yum.

A Few Tips

  • 1 eggplant of about 2 lbs. will serve approximately six.
  • Larger sizes typically have a more bitter taste than smaller ones, because of this use the larger ones in dishes mixed with other vegetables and meats (such as casseroles or lasagna). Small or medium sized ones are better suited for being stewed, grilled, fried in slices or cubes, added to sauces or baked stuffed.
  • Choose those that are plump and heavy for their size to avoid those that are spongy.
  • Fat and rounded ones tend to be juicier than those that are long slender.
  • When frying or sauteing, keep in mind that it will soak up the oil like a sponge…only a bit of fat is all that’s needed.
  • Once pared and sliced it will discolor quickly. Prep right before cooking for best results.
  • To tell whether or not it is past its prime, cut it open and look at the seeds. Dark brown seeds are a sign that it’s time to discard.
  • If an eggplant has large white seeds, remove them since they can taste bitter.

Source: Some of the information above was adapted from the booklet “Vegetable Cook Book” by McFayden Seeds (1948)

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