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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Eggplant In Season

By Sarah Kruse

The humble eggplant makes a cameo appearance as early as June at farmers markets in warmer climates, but officially takes center stage in late July and August throughout much of the U.S. after a long, hot growing season.

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Technically a berry and belonging to the nightshade family, plants that grow at night, eggplants are native to tropical Asia. First cultivated in India, they spread to Africa and were then introduced into Europe by the Arabs in Catalonia in the 13th century. The first eggplants were the size and shape of eggs, providing its name. The large, pear-shaped purple eggplant may dominate supermarket shelves, but at farmers markets, youll find long slender purple Japanese and Chinese varieties as well as round, baseball-sized white, gold or lavender-striped ones.

Get the eggplant recipes:
Vegetarian Moussaka
The reward of this Greek casserole is bite after bite of tender roasted eggplant in a tomato-based red wine marinade...
Baba Ganoush
Roasted eggplant meets lemon, sesame and garlic in this popular Middle Eastern dip...

Back in the mid-1700s, Europeans thought eating eggplants caused insanity. While thats obviously not true, eggplants may drive you crazy if you dont know what to do with them. No need to be intimidated since this versatile, under-appreciated vegetable adeptly takes the lead in main dishes or a supporting role in side dishes.

Cut into slices, large eggplants can be used as a meat substitute. Dice into cubes and add to pasta or rice dishes. Slice into wedges and marinade for a stand-alone side dish. Cut in half and stuff with rice and lentils for a main dish. The possibilities are endless! Plus, the cooling, sweet flavor of eggplant complements strong-flavored veggies and spices. The spongy white flesh absorbs flavors (and oil, so be careful).

Eggplants do require a bit of prep work. To minimize the sometimes bitter taste (more common in the larger varieties) and to improve digestibility, sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let rest in a non-corroding colander for 30-45 minutes. Rinse and pat dry before proceeding with your recipe.

Look for eggplants that are shiny, uniformly firm and heavy for their size. Avoid those that are dull and puffy or have soft spots. Store in a cool place and use within a few days of purchase.


At 3:02 PM , Anonymous Dale Conour, executive editor said...

Hi Alison. With your emphasis on seasonal, fresh ingredients, I thought you might be interested in what we're up to over at; we're creating a menu based on what we grow and make on our property—we're calling it the "One block diet."

Various staff members on different "teams" are keeping blogs of our progress:
What do you think?


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