Eggplants, also known as aubergines, actually have so much to offer and its beauty lies much deeper than its skin.
The word eggplant actually comes from the first plant which was seen with the small, oval, white fruits, shaped like, well - eggs! Later, other species were discovered such as the purple and dark-skinned fruits more commonly seen here in the US.
If you aren't too familiar with this vegetable/fruit, it is known to have a very mild and sweet flesh. The best part about its spongy mild-tasting flesh is that it will be the chameleon of your dish, taking on the flavors echoed in the rest of the pot. This characteristic makes it an excellent meat substitute.
Here are 4 international dishes which made me convert from anti-eggplant to phil-eggplant-ist:
1) Eggplant Curry with Toasted Almonds "Curry-in-a-Hurry" by Rachael Ray
I believe this recipe is meant to duplicate a somewhat labor intensive north Indian dish called Baingan Bhartha, but she's condensed it into a 30-minute meal...and she's done it brilliantly. She eliminates the traditional step of roasting the eggplant for an hour (which sweetens the flesh and adds a smoky flavor) and sweetens the curry with Mango Chutney. This recipe is a regular in the RFR kitchen. (A more labor intensive recipe can be found at Show Me The Curry and follow it to a 'T').
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice, cooked to directions on package
2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan in a slow, steady stream) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large, firm eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large, yellow skinned onion, peeled and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, cracked away from skin with a whack between flat of knife and heel of hand
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup (a couple of heaping tablespoons) mango chutney
1 rounded tablespoon mild curry paste or 2 tablespoons (a generous palm full) curry powder
1 cup vegetable broth or stock
A handful (about 2 tablespoons) cilantro leaves, finely chopped, optional
Toasted sliced or slivered almonds
Thinly sliced scallions or chopped fresh chives
Prepare rice. While rice is simmering, start curry.
Heat a deep, heavy bottomed nonstick skillet over medium to medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add oil, eggplant, onion, and bell pepper. Cover pan and cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, chutney, curry, salt, and broth. Stir to combine and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes over low heat for flavors to combine. Remove curry from heat and stir in cilantro. Ladle eggplant curry into shallow bowls. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop rice balls into the center of bowls. Garnish your the and rice with lots of toasted sliced almonds and scallions or chives.
FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
2) Ellie Krieger's Baba Ganoush
This is a flavorful appetizer which will please your guests
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, grill the eggplant over a gas grill, rotating it around until the skin is completely charred, about 10 minutes. Let the eggplant cool. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid, and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process the eggplant until smooth and transfer to a medium bowl.
On a cutting board, work garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt together with the flat side of a knife, until it forms a paste. Add the garlic-salt mixture to the eggplant. Stir in the parsley, tahini, and lemon juice. Season with more salt, to taste. Garnish with additional parsley.
Rose Elliot is my favorite vegetarian cookbook author.
Preparation time 15 minutes, Cooking Time 30 minutes
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large courgette cut into chunky pieces
1 large aubergine, cut into chunky pieces
2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
2 golden peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
8 garlic cloves, peeled
juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
425g can plum tomatoes
several sprigs of fresh basil
A substantial ratatouille that practically makes itself… great for lazy summer days. A variation is to add a drained can of white or red beans 10 minutes before it’s cooked. You can also spice it up by stirring in a spoonful or two of garam masala when you add the tomatoes. Serve with warm bread, cooked rice, couscous or any other grain your fancy, such as quinoa, buckwheat or millet..
Put all the vegetables into a roasting tray or large shallow casserole, sprinkle with the lemon juice, oil and some salt and pepper. Mix with your hands so that all the vegetables get coated.
Bake, uncovered, in the oven preheated to 350 F for 20 minutes, giving the vegetables a stir after about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.
Season with more salt and pepper if necessary, tear the basil over the top and serve.