So is the eggplant.

Posted by Lisa on August 18, 2011
eggplant, recipes, Vegetables A-Z

It’s funny the way the same vegetables on the same farm in the same soil can give such varying yields from year to year.  Most of us are familiar with squash and zucchini overload – but this year, our first generation of squash was decimated by squash bugs.  (The current generation looks great though — first pick this morning!)  If you were in our CSA last year you’ll remember weeks when you had to conscript perfect strangers to help you haul your watermelons to the car!  The melons are tasty this year, but we’re not seeing the bumper crops of last season.

But the tomatoes!  Last year’s record heat was hard on them, but this year they’re hopping.

So is the eggplant.  Which you might have noticed.

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Bounty!

We love the stuff, but we know it can be intimidating.  Perhaps it’s because it’s one of only a few vegetables you really can’t eat raw; uncooked eggplant contains a compound called solanine, which can cause stomach upset at high doses.  Or is it that eggplant has a reputation for being bitter?  Eggplant can become bitter as it ages, so it’s true that you risk bitterness when you buy it at the grocery store – there’s no telling how long ago it was harvested.  But we pick ours within a couple days of delivering it to you and keep it in cool storage, so it’s not bitter.  Maybe eggplant is intimidating because despite the incredible culinary diversity in our country, most Americans don’t eat a lot of eggplant as kids.

But we’re here to tell you: eggplant is versatile and delicious.

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Eggplant blossom

Storing eggplant: There’s no great answer here.  Eggplant does not store well.  It prefers a temperature of about 50°F. You can leave it on the counter for a day or so, or put it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, but in either place it will begin to age pretty quickly, getting brown spots and losing its mild flavor.  So plan to use it quickly.  Or pickle it!

Using eggplant: Was there ever a more versatile vegetable? Eggplant is such a fantastic element of vegetable-heavy summer fare because 1) it’s hearty and lends real bulk to a meal, and 2) it’s like a sponge, absorbing the flavors of whatever you’re cooking.  It’s great broiled, grilled, sautéed, and roasted.

To salt or not to salt? You’ve probably heard that you need to salt eggplant before cooking.  We disagree.  More or less.  Here’s the deal: since grocery store eggplant is sometimes not fresh, salting can help draw out the bitterness.  But our eggplant is young and tender, so this truly isn’t an issue.  The more compelling reason to salt eggplant has to do with its amazing ability to absorb.  If you’re going to be sautéing your eggplant on the stovetop, you might consider salting it; it will soak up far less of your cooking oil.  But if you’re roasting it (solo or with other summer vegetables like tomatoes and onions and squash, with which it pairs deliciously) or grilling it or broiling it, we say: don’t bother.

To salt: Cut the eggplant into cubes or slices.  Toss lightly with salt.  Put the eggplant into a colander and let it stand for about an hour.  Give it a quick rinse and blot or squeeze dry.  If your recipe calls for salt, wait till the dish is cooked and taste before adding additional salt.

Lots (and LOTS) of recipes below!

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Heather in the eggplant patch

Whole Roasted Eggplant. Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Prick the eggplant in several spots with a fork.  Bake on a cookie sheet or in a casserole dish until soft to the point of collapsing, 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Eat this as a vegetable, drizzled with a little olive oil and some fresh herbs and salt.  Or scoop out the flesh and purée it (or mix it by hand) with some olive oil, garlic, chopped parsley or other herbs, and salt and pepper; serve with crackers, bread, as a dip for other vegetables, or as a sandwich spread.  Add some tahini and lemon juice and you’ve got baba ghanoush. (Bonus: I think roasting eggplants smell like brownies in the oven.)

Our Favorite Ratatouille. This stuff is fantastic. Serve it as a side with dinner, but make enough to have leftovers.  It’s also great in wraps and as a pizza topping!

Chinese Noodle Salad with Roasted Eggplant. Scrumptious. Lots of chopping, but so worth it.

Khoresh Bademjan (Persian Eggplant Stew). Thanks to CSA member Bethany for this one!

Bhurtha. A wonderful Indian dish of eggplant and tomatoes with lots of great spices. Thanks to CSA member Stacey for this one!

Eggplant Fries. We haven’t tried these yet but they look so interesting.

Roasted Eggplant Dip. Mmm! From Noell, who used to host our Ginter Park CSA pickup.

Melanzane Sott’Olio (Pickled Eggplant under Oil). Mmm again!  How about a jar of this stuff, a couple sliced Brandywine tomatoes, some crusty whole grain bread, and a glass of wine? Dinner.

And if you still have eggplant left, check out: these eggplant recipes at Tasty Kitchen, The Crisper Whisperer – How to Handle Eggplant Overload at Serious Eats, and A Good Appetite – Counting the Ways to Cook an Eggplant at The New York Times.

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Happy eating!

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