The Spaniards of the 16th century called eggplants 'Berengenas' or 'apples of love' . Arab and Asian traders brought eggplant to the Middle East, North Africa, and finally Europe. The first eggplants were small, round egg-shaped, a characteristic from which its name is derived
Eggplant arrived on the European scene when the Moors invaded Spain during the 8th century. The Italians encountered the fruit through trading with the Arabs about the 13th century. Throughout the 1500's Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought the eggplant to central and north America .
Unique in it's taste, eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1). It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin.
Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. They grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.
Eggplant ranges in color from deep, vibrant purple to pale, almost translucent white, and in length from 5cm to 30cm. Eggplants are typically about 20 to 25cm long and 10cm in diameter, with a glossy, dark purple skin. Other varieties include the smaller, narrower Japanese / Asian eggplant, the Italian / baby eggplant, which looks like a miniature version of the common variety and white eggplants the size and shape of eggs.
Choose eggplant that is lighter , therefore will have fewer seeds which cause the bitterness , some will advise to choose an eggplant which is heavy.
If the eggplant is young, the skin is edible. As the eggplant ages, the skin becomes bitter and may require peeling. The flesh discolors rapidly, so cut eggplant just before cooking. Slice eggplant, salt it and let it weep for 20 minutes to remove any bitter flavor. Cube it and bake in a tomato sauce .
To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe.
Eggplants are sensitive to heat and cold and should be stored at around 50*F / 10*C. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it perishes quickly once its inner flesh exposed.
When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.
Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, scoop out the flesh once it is cooked. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.
Rinsing the eggplant after 'sweating' will remove most of the salt.
Sliced eggplant absorbs oil like a sponge, but bread crumb coating will help.
Eggplant is delicious hot or cold and can be marinated, baked, steamed, pickled, stuffed, roasted, grilled, fried and cooked in casseroles or stews .
If baking it whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape. Bake at 350*F / 180*C for 15 to 25 minutes, depending upon the eggplant size. Test for its readiness by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through the skin easily.
Mix cubed baked eggplant with grilled peppers, onions and garlic and top with balsamic vinaigrette.
Stuff miniature eggplants with a mixture of feta cheese, pine nuts and roasted peppers.
A legend tells us that long, long time ago, a priest wanted to marry a young girl whose greatest quality was that she was a very fine cook. He sought out the girl's father and demanded as a dowry 12 large jars filled to the top with the purest olive oil.
The girl, returning from her wedding, put some eggplants aside to soak in the oil: in fact, they soaked up so much that in 11 days, they had drunk up all her dowry. Learning that the oil was gone so soon - or perhaps from too much fat consumption - the Imam fell into a dead faint. Which is why in Middle Eastern restaurants you will find eggplant fried in oil served under the name of 'Imam Baladi' , meaning "the priest fainted."
Stuffed Eggplant w/beef
Fry onions in cooking oil over medium heat until golden. Add ground meat and fry further until meat changes color. Add 1/2 cup water, salt, pepper and tomato paste. Mix and cook further until water boils off.
Fry prepared vegetables in cooking oil over medium heat until wilted. Boil two cups of water in a small pot. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and rice and boil further until rice softens. Drain the water and let cool slightly.
Peel eggplants and cut a circle at the tops, then remove insides without creating any holes at the sides or the end. Sprinkle some salt inside the eggplants. Mix prepared meat, vegetables and rice well. Fill the eggplants with the mix and close the tops.
Fry eggplants in cooking oil for 5-10 minutes over medium heat, then place in a pot side by side (avoid stacking them). Dissolve one teaspoon of tomato paste in a glass of hot water and add to eggplants. Add salt, black pepper, lime juice and sugar and simmer for 5-10 minutes until water boils off