Eggplants are about out as far as being in season. These are wonderful vegetables (actually a fruit, technically a berry) that can be used in a variety of dishes and in many styles of cooking. The eggplant is native to India and has been cultivated since prehistory. It is part of the nightshade family and like tomatoes was once considered extremely poisonous. When roasted they impart a very smoky flavor due to the fact that they contain trace amounts of nicotine (who knew?)! The eggplant can be bitter and larger varieties should be peeled before eating. Another trick to reduce the bitter quality is to salt the flesh and rinse before using. The eggplant comes in just about every shape and color and can be stewed, fried, roasted, grilled, sautéed, stuffed, baked, you name it and used in dishes ranging from dips to soups to vegetarian casseroles. Because of the texture of the flesh the eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb the flavors nicely of whatever it is paired with. Try a few of our recipes to enjoy this beautiful berry!
ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP: Serves 4-6
1 pound eggplant, about 1 large or 2 smallish, stemmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup parsley, plus a few tablespoons chopped for serving
3 tablespoons tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ cup Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for service
¼ cup olive oil
Toasted baguette slices for serving
Heat an oven to 450°F. drizzle the eggplant halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until squishy, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool just until you can handle them. Scrape the flesh out of the skins and place in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients through the smoked paprika. Process until smooth. Drizzle in half of the olive oil (2 tablespoons) and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if desired.
To serve: place the eggplant mixture in a bowl and drizzle with remaining olive oil, top with more chopped parsley and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.
***we served this as crostini at an event with a squeeze of Emily G’s Roasted Red Pepper Jam…YUM!
Farmer’s Eggplant Fries: Serves 4-6 as a side
1 large eggplant, stemmed and cut into fry size strips
2-3 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Panko break crumbs
Heat an oven to 425°F. Toss the eggplant fries with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Then toss with the Parmesan and panko. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes in the oven. Toss the fries and cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until they are golden and delicious. Serve, and enjoy.
*** This recipe came to Ginger (my business partner) from a farmer at the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market. When asked “What should I do with these?” this was their reply!