Eggplants are fruits that are part of the nightshade family, which include some other familiar members such as tomatoes, gooseberries, chilis, and peppers. As mentioned, they are staple ingredients in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. However, it’s actually surprising that we all don’t cook with eggplant more often, since they’re so versatile! You can serve them roasted, fried, pureed, or in a stew.
In order to cook great dishes with eggplant, you first need to know how to select the best eggplants for the job. Look out for shiny, plump (and heavy!) eggplants with no visible blemishes (and the heavier the better!). Store eggplants at room temperature, as refrigeration can make their skins rubbery.
You might have heard that salting eggplants before cooking is absolutely necessary, and there’s a good reason for this. Eggplants have a very high moisture content. Salting draws the water out, so when you sauté the eggplants afterwards, they absorb much less oil. Neglecting this salting process will result in soggy, oily eggplants. The salting process should be done for at least half an hour, after which you can blot them dry with kitchen paper. If you’re in a rush, you can do a quick microwave salting technique. Sprinkle chopped eggplants with salt and place in a single layer on kitchen paper. Microwave until the pieces shrink to about half their size – they are now ready to be cooked in oil!
How to cook eggplant
One of the easiest ways to cook eggplants, is to roast them! Pierce the skin of halved eggplants, and score the flesh. Cover liberally with seasoning and olive oil, and roast for 20 to 30 min at 400°F (205°C).
Why make fried green tomatoes, when you can have fried eggplant? Heat 2 Tbsp canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip peeled eggplant slices in eggs (beaten), then in breadcrumbs, and place in the skillet. Fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.
You can also try making a few classic eggplant recipes like ratatouille, eggplant involtini, moussaka, or baba ghanoush. So go ahead and start experimenting with this delicious and nutritious fruit!