In Season: Eggplant

by in In Season, August 25, 2009

There aren’t many vegetables I don’t love, and it would be tough to narrow my favorites down to a top 10 list. If I had to, though, eggplants would definitely make the list. Friends often ask, “Are there ways to prepare them other than fried eggplant?” Yes, of course!

What, Where & When?
Eggplants are members of the nightshade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. Most folks recognize the classic teardrop shape and dark purple skin, but eggplants can also be round, long, fat and skinny and have white, black, white with purple stripes and pale lavender skin. The inner flesh is off-white and spongy with tiny edible seeds. Their season runs from July through October, and while they’re commonly grown throughout the world, most of the ones in the U.S. comes from Florida and New Jersey.

Nutrition Facts
Eggplants seem to be one of those love-‘em-or-hate-‘em veggies. They’ve certainly sparked all kinds of food folk lore through the years. Claims going back hundreds of years link them to insanity and leprosy and even call them an aphrodisiac. Myths aside, they’re a good-for-you, low-cal veggie. One cup of cooked eggplant has 2 grams of hunger-curbing fiber and only 35 calories. It also contains some iron, potassium, vitamin K and chlorogenic acid, a cancer-fighting antioxidant.

What To Do With Eggplant
An eggplant’s inner flesh is pretty mild, with a hint of bitterness. The skin is also edible, but can be a bit tough and very bitter. To remove some of the bitterness, you can salt cut pieces or slices and let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes (be sure to rinse well before cooking). In my experience, some eggplants are much more bitter than others; every once and while I come across a really bitter one (not my favorite). This may be a sign that they’re old.

You can bake, boil, roast, pickle or fry eggplant pieces. Their meaty texture works great in pasta dishes, casseroles and stuffed peppers. I often add diced cubes to stir-fry and grill thick slices with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for sandwiches. In my version of eggplant parm, I bread and bake the eggplant and instead of frying — this slashes the calories and fat by almost half! I also roast diced eggplant along with chunks of onion, pepper and garlic, throw it all in a food processor and puree for a sweet and savory eggplant spread, which you can use on sandwiches, wraps and dipping veggies and pita chips.

Shopping Tip: Choose eggplants with shiny and smooth skin. Pass on ones with wrinkles or brown spots. Once cut, the flesh begins to turn brown quickly so peel or cut the eggplant just before using. Eggplants don’t like super cold environments; store them in a cool, dry place on the counter for a day or two. They will keep a bit longer in the front of the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

TELL US: What’s the best way to cook up eggplant?

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Comments (40)

  1. Rachel Garnet says:

    Eggplant (especially the small light purple asian variety) are delish by simply stir frying in olive oil garlic and ginger and then adding a little soy or teriyaki sauce….then be creative and eat alone, on rice, or add other veggies you love. Shrimp is also a good addition. YUM!

  2. Jill S. says:

    I use a lot of late summer produce in what I call faux-sagna. Saute big chunks of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, your favorite italian herbs. Stir in cooked italian turkey sausage, then layer in a casserole with cooked whole grain fusilli or penne and fat free cottage cheese (you could use ricotta, but cottage cheese is cheaper and available fat free) Repeat layers as if assembling lasagna. Top with part skim mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan and bake.

    As for bitterness… it's never been a problem. Choose smaller (younger) eggplant with smooth skin.

  3. Annette says:

    I have a great way to have eggplant and you will love it. This is a Lebanese dish that I grew up with and my husband loves it.

    Skin egg plant and slice into 1-11/2 inch slices lengthwise (top to bottom), soak in salted water for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour (doing this they will absorb less grease)
    Fry 2-3 egg plant in oil until browned well (no breading, just fry) Put on papertowel to drain grease.
    Layer cake pan with fried eggplant.
    Cover egg plant with 2 pounds fried hamburger, turkey burger, pork or my favorite ground lamb. This should include diced onions and salt, pepper and ground cloves to taste. (cooked at same time as meat)
    Cover meat mixture with 1-2 cans tomato paste and add pine nuts to top.
    Bake at 325 for 1 hour
    Serve over rice w/vermicelli
    Let me know if you have questions and I will be glad to help you

  4. kyfleur says:

    We LOVE eggplant. As real lovers we just cut in half lengthwise, score (careful not to pierce skin) rub with evoo, salt/pepper, put face down on grill – when skin is brown, turn. It's ready when you can see the juices bubbling. Yum.

  5. priya0424 says:

    I roast my whole eggplant on a grill or my toater oven.Then peel the dry skin.Mash it well.In a pan saute chopped onion,ginger and garlic and add tomatoes.Add spices as per taste"(I add Indian spices).Then Add mashed eggplant and salt.(green chillies add nice flavor).Garnish with Cilantro leaves.Serve with bread or rice.

  6. Teresa says:

    I love, love, love eggplant. Cube it and saute with olive oil & garlic. Add tomatoes,salt/pepper and put this over spaghetti squash. Top with grated cheese and fresh parsley.

  7. Julie says:

    I Cut the smaller eggplants in half and brown them in a pan on the stove top, then put them in a casserole dish and add a can of small petite tomatoes with their juice, garlic and white wine and roast in the oven for 1 hour on 350!

  8. Gaetano says:

    While my large family loves eggplant dishes, there is one that is the most requested. Eggplant Boats ! Peel skin from eggplant and then cut in half, top to bottom. Scoop out the pulp and seeds until the wall of the eggplant are about 1/4" thick. Save the pulp and seeds for later. Dip the "boats" in a light batter and deep fry. Combine the saved eggplant pulp with your favorite meat (beef, shrimp, crawfish, etc….) and stuff the "boats". Sprinkle with bread crumbs, cheese, and bake on pan.

  9. I love eggplant In fact I have a Restaurant called THE AMBITIOUS EGGPLANT I specialize in Eggplant come check it out if your in the Las Vegas, Nevada Area!!!! It's located on the strip inside The BELLAGIO!!!!

  10. Debbie says:

    Question: Do you peel the eggplant before you saute it?? Or does it not matter…

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