From battered and deep fried, to stewed in ratatouille, or charred and blended into baba ghanoush, or layered in musakka or maybe even prepared as eggplant parmigiana- this versatile vegetable can be enjoyed in so many different ways. For some recipes it is recommended to salt the cut up eggplant or to place it in salty water then rinse off the salt before cooking. This will soften the vegetable and remove any bitterness.
Today, eggplants (called aubergine in France) come in all shapes, from small, round fruits (about two inches in diameter) to the popular large oblong Black Beauty variety, which can range up to 12 inches long. A newer variety (called Japanese eggplant) is long and thin, resembling zucchini, and has fewer seeds. (The seeds are edible in all varieties.)
Eggplant colors range from white to lavender to dark purplish-black as well as pale green, yellow, and reddish. There are even some striped varieties. Various eggplant varieties may be used interchangably in most recipes, unless the skin color is a specific visual factor in the dish.
When cut, this vegetable quickly oxidizes and the flesh turns brown. Salt water or lemon will help to keep the flesh from turning brown. Eggplant is available year round but locally available in the late summer (August to September).
Handling & Storage:
- Press your finger lightly against the skin. If it leaves a light imprint, it is ripe. If it is too soft, it is too old and will be bitter. Looking for less seeds? Check the blossom end of the fruit. A larger scar generally means fewer seeds.
- Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. Depending on the freshness factor of the eggplant at the time of purchase, it may be refrigerated for up to 4 days (up to 7 days if you pick right from the garden). However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, preferably within a day.
- Handle eggplants gingerly, as they bruise easily. If you purchase them wrapped in plastic wrap, remove the wrapper, wrap in a paper towel, and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store raw eggplant at temperatures less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).
- Cooked eggplant may be refrigerated up to 3 days (it will get mushy when reheated) or frozen up to 6 months in puree form (add a little lemon juice to discourage discoloration). It holds up fairly well in chunks in soups and stews when thawed in the refrigerator, but not as chunks on its own.