Recipe for Eggplant
A good recipe for eggplant is a staple around my house at the end of summer when the tomatoes are ripe and big beautiful eggplants are ripe in the garden. Eggplant can be incredibly healthy, but watch out as many recipes for eggplant involve deep frying in oil. This recipe for eggplant with pasta is hearty and healthy, without a lot of the added oil you find in other recipes.
The recipe for eggplant below can be enjoyed year-round. I’ve tweaked it a bit to use grape tomatoes – but I strongly recommend fresh basil to give your eggplant that wonderful taste of summer.
During the Middle Ages in northern Europe, eggplant fell out of favor because, again as a member of the nightshade family, just like tomatoes it was thought to be poisonous, supposedly causing fevers, seizures and mental disorders. One of the reasons for that is because of it’s very bitter taste back then. Back then eggplant was given the nickname “Apple of Sodom”. It did remain a popular food in the Mediterranean, and that’s how it started spreading across the world. And as it was cultivated more, it lost some of the early bitterness.
How did eggplant get its name?
Some eggplant resembled goose or hen’s eggs – so it was named “eggplant”. The French named in aubergine, a very popular color palate still today.
During that time, the eggplant was known in Britain as the “Jew’s apple” because of its great popularity among Sephardic Jews, and it is thought that they were the ones who brought eggplant to England.
There are many varieties of eggplant available today.
One of the most common which you see in stores is called Black Magic. That’s the one I grow in my garden, as well. There are varieties in a range of color, from lavender to green to orange to white to black, and lots of different sizes, as well.
What are the health benefits?
Eggplant is so good for you. It’s a potent antioxidant. The Black Magic eggplant, which is the common one, has more antioxidants and health benefits as other kinds ofeggplant. Eggplant is good for your heart, your brain and may help prevent some cancers.
How do you choose eggplant?
Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny and free of spots or scars.
The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back it’s ripe.
I store mine in a plastic bag in the frig. Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Do not cut eggplantbefore you store it as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.
If you purchase eggplant that is wrapped in plastic film, remove it as soon as possible since it will inhibit the eggplant from breathing and degrade its freshness.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Cut off the ends.
Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.
To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. Sprinkle cut eggplant with salt and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.
Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.
Recipe with Eggplant, Pasta, Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
This is my “go to” dish for Lent.
12 oz short pasta, boiled and kept warm (reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water after cooking)
1 large eggplant, about 1-1/2#, peeled and diced
2 generous cups onion, chopped (I used red and yellow)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (or several nice Roma’s, chopped
Several handfuls fresh basil, chopped
Salt, Pepper and Parmesano Reggiano
While pasta is cooking, film a sauté pan with olive oil. Stir in eggplant, onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until eggplant is tender. Cover if you like. Add tomatoes and cook until skin bursts. (If using whole chopped, just cook until tender). Add salt and pepper to taste – don’t be shy and if necessary, stir in reserved pasta water to make it saucy. Stir in basil. Serve with generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.