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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 12:01 am

Celebrate eggplant season

Eggplants come in a variety of cultivars and colors.
Photo BY J.E. Fee

 

Eggplant is in peak season right now, and will continue to grace the tables at farmers markets until frost. Also know as aubergine, eggplant is low in calories, nutrient-rich, and loaded with fiber and antioxidants. This versatile fruit is widely consumed throughout Asia and the Middle East and comes in a range of colors and shapes.

Ellie Tarr with Krone Farm’s Produce near Riverton grows several varieties of eggplant for sale at the Old Capitol Farmers Market. In addition to the large Mediterranean Black Beauty type, she also grows bright purple fairytale eggplants, long thin-skinned Japanese-type eggplants and a charming black and white duo called Hansel and Gretel. Tarr likes to make eggplant “fries” by slicing it into sticks before tossing with olive oil and Parmesan, then baking in a hot oven. However you plan to prepare your eggplant, look for firm glossy fruits and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Roasted eggplant
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, grill the eggplant over a gas grill, rotating it around until the skin is completely charred, about 10 minutes. You can also do this on a wire rack over a gas flame on the stovetop. Let the eggplant cool. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, scoop out the flesh, and roughly chop. Transfer the chopped eggplant into a strainer or colander to drain and place over a bowl to catch the liquid, then refrigerate for two hours or overnight. The eggplant is now recipe ready. Try adding it to store-bought marinara for a nutritious upgrade or reduce the carbon footprint of your burger by combining it with seasoned ground beef before shaping into patties and grilling. The roasted eggplant also freezes well (drain off accumulated liquid after thawing).

Babaganoush

This classic Middle Eastern dip is filled with good-for-you ingredients. Serve it with warm pita or cut veggies.

1 ½-2 cups roasted eggplant pulp (from one large eggplant)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
¼ cup chopped parsley
Juice from one lemon (to taste)
Salt
Extra virgin olive oil     
Combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice as needed.

Eggplant fritters

An excellent side dish, these also make a satisfying main course when wrapped up in a flatbread and topped with crumbled feta, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, and tahini sauce.

2 cups roasted eggplant pulp (from one large eggplant)
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
¼ teaspoon each ground black pepper, cumin and coriander
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil for frying
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil and mix well, then form into two-inch patties. Heat two to three tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Have ready a plate or tray lined with paper towels. Fry the patties in the hot oil, and cook until golden brown, about two to three minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium black eggplants
½ cup mayonnaise, such as Duke’s (or homemade)
2 cloves minced garlic, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
Marinara sauce to serve
Chopped fresh basil

If the eggplants are young and thin-skinned you don’t need to peel them, but If the skin is tough then do peel them. Slice into half-inch-thick rounds and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and leave them to sweat for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the slices dry with paper towels. Mix together the garlic and mayonnaise, then toss the eggplant slices with the mayo until lightly coated. Mix together the Parmesan cheese, parsley, breadcrumbs and salt. Dredge the mayo-coated slices in the breadcrumb mixture, then arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from oven, place a slice of mozzarella on top of each eggplant round, then return to the oven for another five minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with warm marinara sauce and chopped fresh basil.

Eggplant and basil stirfry

1 pound eggplants, preferably Asian type, cut into ½ dice
Three cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
A pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces ground pork or chicken, or diced extra firm tofu
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced into ¼ rounds, optional
1 cup Thai basil leaves

Cooked rice, to serve

Toss the diced eggplants with salt and a pinch of sugar and let sit for 20 minutes to sweat while you prepare the other ingredients.

Rinse the salted eggplant and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat a skillet or wok over high heat. Add two tablespoons oil, reduce the heat to medium high, then add the garlic and ginger. Stirfry for about 30 seconds, then add the meat or tofu and continue to cook for about four minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a serving plate. Add another tablespoon oil, then add the eggplants and jalapeño, if using. Continue to cook until eggplant is tender, about eight minutes.

Add the meat or tofu back in along with the fish sauce, soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and a splash of water. Continue to cook until liquid is mostly reduced, about five minutes, then stir in the basil. Serve with hot rice. 

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