Eggplants are beautiful, amazingly heat-tolerant plants that can be prolific producers. This combination is a comfort for many gardeners at a time of the year when the heat starts to undermine our enthusiasm and inspire fantasies about places with more rain and less heat. They also come in a viariety of shapes and colors, which satisfies the garden nerd or artist and just generally makes eating them more interesting. These varieties can be substitued for one another in the kitchen, too, in most (if not all) cases.
The flavor of eggplant can be very rich and abosrbs the flavor of oils nicely. Eggplant has the reputation for tasting somewhat bitter, but this mellows with cooking. Some people recommend salting and rinsing eggplant before cooking to alleviate any bitterness. But, I’ve found through my lazy cooking habits that it’s not really necessary, particularly if you will be cooking it thoughouly or making something like baba ganoush (one of my favorites).
According to Wikipedia, the soft, edible seeds are have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids (it is a close relative of tobacco). My neighbor, Alice, corroborated this information several weeks ago. It was the first I’d ever heard of nicotine in eggplants. Don’t worry though, it’s a token amount and will not send us reformed smokers back to the box.
You may already be quite experienced with the eggplant, and if so, please share your favorite recipe. This one is one of my favorites. It’s particlarly delicious spread on flatbread with a bit of chopped arugula sprinkled on top. This recipe came from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone (die-hard carnivores, too) who enjoys flavorful, seasonal vegetables that often pop up in farmers’ markets and CSA baskets.
Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant with Tahini)
Eggplant, about 1 1/4 pound
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tahini
I large lemon, juiced
Extra virgin olive oil
*Preheat oven to 425 degress F. Slash eggplant to prevent explosions, put in a pan and bake until it’s soft and collapsing and slightly charred (for a smokey flavor), 30-40 minutes for larger varieties and less time for smaller varieties.
*Let eggplant cool and discard juices. Remove the skin and puree in blender or food processor with the garlic and tahini. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve it up and top with olive oil and green herb of your choice. Enjoy!