The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

August 15, 2012

Amanda Stone: Versatile eggplant a recipe friend

CARTHAGE, Mo. — It’s eggplant time. I can’t get enough of this gorgeous piece of produce. If a vegetable could be described as voluptuous, the dark and lovely eggplant would be it.

It is commonly known by its elegant French name “aubergine” in other parts of the world, which seems like a more fitting name than the dumpy “eggplant.” Early cultivars were small and light in color, so they resembled eggs. If only that farmer had known that aubergine would become the name of a color that snooty folks in the 21st century would give to their interior decorators. It sounds so much more glamorous than eggplant. C’est la vie.

When nearly everything in my garden is finished producing, the eggplant prevails. The tiny black mystery bugs that are usually a problem for my eggplant weren’t around this year, because of to the heat I presume. While I pick cracked cherry tomatoes to roast, the eggplant continues to grow. When I give my solitary watermelon a once over to check for ripeness, the eggplant waits. As I pick a tiny sunburned pepper, the eggplant shines on its spiky stem, taunting me. I can’t wait any longer. I grab its firm, shiny body and twist it off its woody stem.

Eggplant has gotten a bad reputation for being labor intensive to prepare. Traditional recipes demanded that eggplant be peeled, salted, drained and rinsed before use. No more. Modern cultivars are not as bitter. However, keep in mind that eggplant is like a sponge. Without the salting process, eggplant soaks up a lot of oil and sauce, making for a very rich, flavorful and hearty dish. It makes a great main course for a meatless meal.

I don’t know of a vegetable more versatile than eggplant. It’s used in cuisine around the world. My favorites are the Greek casserole-like mousakka, Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, which is a creamy dip, and of course Italy’s eggplant Parmesan. In my book, eggplant Parmesan is kind of cheating. One could fry nearly anything and cover it with cheese and marinara and it would be amazing.

I hate the extra step of salting eggplant, so I adapted a couple of recipes where the eggplant soaks up oils and sauces that are good for you.

 

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