The vegetable popularly known as eggplant is, in fact, a member of the nightshade family along with potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. It actually ranks among the most popular edible vegetables of the world since it is enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean basin, the Far East, the Americas and practically in all Latin American countries.
Undoubtedly, its popularity stems from the pleasantly bitterish, invigorating taste agreeable texture and peerless versatility. It can be prepared in a variety of ways; pan-fried, breaded and deep-fried, stewed, baked, pureed and grilled.
There are many types of eggplant: bell type(Jersey, King, Classic, High Bluish Select), cylindrical (Mirabel, Vernal, and Mini Fingers), Sicilian types (round and purple in colour), Japanese (cylindrical, and pinkish in colour, pickling and white.
The colour varies from white to almost jet-black, with the most common hue being purple. Popular Mediterranean dishes include eggplant Parmigiana., ratatouille, mousakka, stuffed with rice and pine nuts, stuffed with ground lamb, pickled, baked with onions and chopped tomatoes, sliced and grilled, curried, fritters a d eggplant caviar.
Before attempting t0o cook bear a few things in mind:
While its subtle bitterness defines eggplant’s very appeal, if not kept in check, it can be singularly unappealing. To avoid this, some cooks slice or chop uncooked eggplant, sprinkle it with salt and leave up to 30 minutes (sometimes with a weight on top) to remove some of the moisture ands biter taste. Others soak it in salted water for up to several hours prior to cooking.
Look for plump, heavy, unwrinkled eggplant that feel quite firm to the touch. There should be no external blemishes or signs of bruising and decay. Reject any that are wilted, shrivelled or soft.
Its harvested ripe and best-eaten soon after purchase. It can be stored for several days, unwrapped, in a refrigerator vegetable crisper at seven C to 10C.
When cutting or chopping it, use a stainless-steel knife, since carbon-steel utensils can cause discolouration and a bitter aftertaste.
ROASTED EGGPLANT SALSA
3 small eggplants chopped
1 medium, onion, halved with skin on
1 red pepper
¼ cup black olives pitted
1 tsp capers
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F
Sprinkle eggplant lightly with salt and let it stand for 20 minutes Rinse and pat dry.
Brush onion with oil and place cut side down on oiled tray. Place red pepper and eggplant on a tray and roast in oven until tender
Place pepper in cold water to remove skin and seeds. Peel onion. Finely dice vegetable set aside.
In food processor, combine olives, capers, garlic, vinegar, basil and oil. Pulse several times until finely blended. Add to vegetables and stir. Season to taste
Serve with pita triangles.