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56
Food
and drink
by Shari Darling
M
y husband thinks that
eggplant is a disgusting
and useless ingredient
which he requests that I
not purchase. No doubt in the past,
inexperienced cooks have prepared it
incorrectly for him.
The funny thing is that my husband
actually enjoys eggplant when it is
served to him as a dish that does not
include the fruit’s name. On occasion,
I have prepared Middle Eastern baba
ghanouj, Italian caponata and Greek
moussaka. He loves all of these dishes.
Eggplant is supposed to taste tender
and silky. Unfortunately, this botanical
fruit is often served dry, bitter, raw and
rubbery or the flesh is too oily. Or too
much of the rubbery skin has been
cooked with the flesh.
There are a few tips to cooking suc-
cessfully with eggplant.
Never use all of its skin, especially if
serving eggplant in chunks or slices.
Partially peel the skin in a zebra-like
fashion. Don’t peel off all the skin
either. The skin helps to keep the flesh
intact once cooked.
Grilled eggplant adds smoky flavour to
French ratatouille and other dishes. To
grill eggplant, cut the fruit crosswise
into thick slices, brush the flesh on
both sides with olive oil and sprinkle it
with salt. Grill the slices over medium,
direct heat, turning once. If your slices
are still raw when tested, wrap them in
foil, place them in an indirectly heated
corner of the grill and let them cook
for another 15 minutes or so until
tender.
To effectively roast eggplant, preheat
the oven to 400 F. Cut the eggplant
horizontally in half. Score the flesh,
cutting deep, but not right to the skin.
Sprinkle salt inside the scored areas.
One eggplant requires about 3/4 tsp
of salt. Let the eggplant stand, on
paper towel, for about 30 minutes.
Gently squeeze the eggplant over the
sink. Much of its water will be released.
Pat the eggplant dry with paper towel.
Brush the flesh with olive oil. Set
eggplant on a baking sheet lined with
parchment paper, flesh side down.
Roast for about an hour until the skin
collapses. Let the eggplant cool before
handling.
When pan-frying eggplant, it often
absorbs a tremendous amount of oil.
The secret is to make sure that the
oil is very hot and put the slices or
cubes into a single layer. If you create
a heap of cubes in the pan, the flesh
will not cook evenly and some cubes
will remain rubbery. Turn the slices
or cubes often and adjust the heat to
keep them from burning. Pan-fry the
eggplant until all pieces are golden.
There are many varieties of this fruit.
The graffiti variety, which is purplish
and ivory white striped, is thin-skinned
and mild in flavour (top left of the
photo). The Italian eggplant (top
right of the photo) is mauve-purple
with shiny skin and a voluptuous oval
shape and possesses a mild flavour.
The white beauty or albino variety
is firmly textured and tender-tasting
(bottom left of the photo). Chinese
eggplant is bright to dark purple, long
and slender, tender and sweet (bot-
tom right of the photo). It is a popular
Asian variety named after its native
town of Ping Tung, Taiwan.
While considered a seasonal, sum-
mer ingredient, several varieties of
eggplant are readily available in the
supermarket all year long. Due to its
density and earthy character, eggplant
is actually a fabulous ingredient to
marry with winter root vegetables.
Originally, the eggplant was small and
round, like an egg. Hence its name.
This fruit originated in India and was
first cultivated in China about 3 A.D.
During the middle ages, eggplant was
introduced to Europe by the Moors.
The French and Italians were incorpo-
rating eggplant into their diet by the
18th century. Thomas Jefferson, also
considered an experimental botanist,
introduced eggplant, technically
known as “SolanumMelongena” to the
United States in 1806.
Eggplant is worth incorporating into
your diet. It’s a superhero, known as
a potent antioxidant and free-radical
scavenger. While low in carbohydrates,
calories and fat, eggplant is an excel-
lent source of dietary fibre and is rich
in vitamins B1, B6, potassium, copper,
magnesium, manganese, phosphorus,
niacin and folic acid. These are nutri-
tional values which we require in our
diet all year long.
Eggplant, due to its dense texture and
earthy character, pairs nicely with both
white and red wines. Here is an egg-
plant recipe and wine accompaniment
that can be served over the holiday
season as lunch, as an appetizer or as
an hors d’oeuvre. If serving as an hors
d’oeuvre, use a tiny eggplant va-
riety and French baguette slices.
For more information on wine and
food, go to