Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Growing up I never had eggplant.  I had my first taste of eggplant when I was around 25 years old and fell in love with it.  They lack in nutrition and flavor so it is all about how you prepare them.  

Eggplant is a cold-sensitive vegetable that requires a long warm season. The culture of eggplant is similar to that of bell pepper, with transplants being set in the garden after all danger of frost is past. Eggplants are slightly larger plants than peppers and are spaced slightly farther apart. Eggplant requires careful attention for a good harvest. Small-fruited, exotic-colored and ornamental varieties can be grown in containers and used for decorations.


Historians believe the eggplant may have its origins in India, but early written accounts from a 5th century Chinese record on agriculture indicate its cultivation in China.


Eggplants have a small amount of nutrients. Unpeeled, they provide some fiber. There is also some folate and potassium.


Eggplant should be started from transplants. Select plants in cell packs or individual containers. It is important to get the plants off to a properly. Do not plant too early. Transplant after the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed. Eggplants are more susceptible than tomato plants to low temperatures and do not grow until temperatures are warm.

Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, or even closer for small fruited types. Three to six plants are usually sufficient for most families unless eggplant is a favorite vegetable, eaten often. Allow 30 to 36 inches between rows or space plants 24 inches apart in all directions in raised beds.


Given sufficient moisture and fertility, eggplant thrives in the heat of summer. The plants tolerate dry weather after they are well established but should be irrigated during extended dry periods for continued peak production. 


Harvest the fruits when they are 6 to 8 inches long and still glossy. Use a knife or pruning shears rather than breaking or twisting the stems. Many eggplant varieties have small prickly thorns on the stem and calyx, so exercise caution or wear gloves when harvesting. Leave the large (usually green) calyx attached to the fruit.

When the fruits become dull or brown, they are too mature for culinary use and should be cut off and discarded in the compost. Over mature fruits are spongy and seedy and may be bitter. Even properly harvested fruits do not store well and should be eaten soon after they are harvested. Large, vigorous plants can yield as many as four to six fruits at the peak of the season.

Harvest eggplants when they are young. Size is not always an indication of maturity. To test, hold the eggplant in your palm and gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh presses in but bounces back, it is ready for harvesting. If the flesh is hard and does not give, the eggplant is immature and too young to harvest. If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant to over mature and may be completely brown inside and bitter with large tough seeds.

There is long-standing controversy about male and female eggplants, which is an inaccurate approach considering the fact that fruits are the product of sex and do not have it. However, it is folk wisdom worth some attention. Eggplants have a dimple at the blossom end. The dimple can be very round or oval in shape. The round ones seem to have more seeds and tend to be less meaty, so select the oval dimpled eggplant.

Eggplants bruise easily so harvest gently. Always cut the eggplant with the cap and some of the stem attached. Eggplants do not like cool temperatures so they do not store well. Harvest and use them immediately. If you must store them, wrap them in plastic or use plastics and store for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Be careful as it will soon develop soft brown spots and become bitter. Use them while the stem and cap are still greenish and rather fresh-looking.


Cooked eggplant soaks up a lot of oil. As the air rushes out of the cells oil rushes in to take it place. Many cooks insist on salting and pressing (or just draining) the air and water out before cooking. Getting rid of the air means it will absorb less oil during cooking. Salting also reduces the water content which reduces the amount of water leeched out into the dish. If you salt prior to cooking, rinse and pat dry to prevent excessive salt in the end product. Adjust the seasoning in the recipe to compensate for the salt remaining on the eggplant.

Then there is the issue of whether or not to peel the eggplant. Peeling should depend on how the eggplant is used in the recipe. If you never peel, selection becomes extremely important. Young tender eggplant is a must as older tough skin takes longer to cook and by then the flesh is overcooked.  Eggplant can be baked, grilled, steamed, or sautéed. It is versatile and works well with tomatoes, onions, garlic


Eggplant is not suitable for drying or canning. Freezing is the best method for home preservation.
To Freeze: Harvest before seeds become mature and when color is uniformly dark.  Wash, peel if desired, and slice 1/3-inch thick. Prepare quickly, enough eggplant for one blanching at a time.  Water blanch, covered for 4 minutes in one gallon boiling water containing 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled).  Cool, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Seal in zip closure freezer bags and seal and freeze.  For frying -- Pack the drained slices with a freezer wrap between slices. Seal and freeze.

My Story

When I lived in California in the late 60's and early 70’s, my landlord introduced me to my first taste of eggplant.  His name was Otho Slay.  He was a dear, elderly, retired, navy man who I used to visit even after he was no longer my landlord.  He told me it was necessary to soak eggplant in salt water for 24 hours to get the poison out of it.  Well this was an old wive’s tale and I now find out that you do it to get rid of the water content and take the bitterness out of it.   He fixed me deep fried eggplant and this is his recipe he shared with me.  My kids love it and so do I.  Thank you for the introduction Otho.  

Peel egg plant and slice the pieces about 1/4 of an inch thick. Let the slices set for 24 hours in salt water.  Drain and pat dry.  Dip in flour and then in an egg wash.  Dip again in flour and drop into hot canola oil.  When brown on one side turn over and fry on other side.  Place on paper towel to get rid of excess oil.  Salt immediately to your taste.

Variations—  The eggplant can be cut into sticks and had as an appetizer.  Roll in parmesan cheese when you take out of the oil.  Salt and pepper.  For another appetizer you can top the fried eggplant with a pizza or a spaghetti sauce and then top with mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese and put under a broiler to melt the cheese like my earlier fried green tomato variation.


Herbed Baby Eggplant

This recipe is good chilled as a summer appetizer or side dish.

1 3 pounds small Oriental-type eggplants (4-6 ounces)
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into shreds

Wash eggplant, remove caps and cut into quarters or cut in half. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.  Spread pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet, cut sides up.  Mix garlic and oil, and drizzle over eggplants. Bake 30 minutes until the eggplants are brown and tender. Cool slightly.  Rinse basil leaves. Stack leaves and roll up like a cigar. Cut across into thin shreds. Set aside.  Place the eggplants in a large bowl and drizzle with vinegar, add basil shreds, and toss. Serves 4 to 6 .

Linguine with Eggplant

1 pound linguine
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
In a large pot, cook the linguine as package directs; drain well. Place linguine in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil; set aside.

In the same pot, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the eggplant for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and linguine and toss gently until heated thru. Serve immediately.

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

About 4 cups chopped eggplant (use cylinder shaped; should be chopped in about 1 inch cylinder shape segments)
8 cloves garlic minced
1/3 cup ketchup (approximation)
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1/4 - 1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons white soy sauce
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese chili sauce
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped green onions (green part only)
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in water
2 tablespoons hot oil (add to finished sauce)
Fry eggplant in oil over medium heat, for about 8 minutes. When frying cycle is completed, the eggplant is dark yellow in color. After frying drain well and set aside.

Fry ginger and garlic in a little oil for about 30 sec. When you smell strong aroma, add ketchup and stir for a minute or so. Add Chinese chili sauce and stir well.  Add white wine and simmer for a minute or two. After this, add all other ingredients except green onions and cornstarch. Stir and allow mixture to simmer for a couple of minutes before adding cornstarch. Just as mixture starts to thicken, add chopped green onions and hot oil, stir for a minute or so and add eggplant to sauce. Once eggplant is coated with sauce, turn off fire, remove from wok/skillet and serve over white rice.

Ratatouille Salad

1 (12 to 14-ounce) eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch-thick rounds
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 6 strips
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
3 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper ,and onion on baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; turn to coat.

Grill vegetables over medium high heat until tender and tinged with brown, turning frequently, about 6 minutes for eggplant and zucchini and about 10 minutes for red bell pepper and onion. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle top with cheese.


Eggplant Catalana

4 large eggplants
1 medium size onion
Garlic to taste
1 cup oil
1 pound fresh tomatoes
6 walnuts
fresh parsley
1 cup chicken stock
Cut the eggplant in slices crosswise, with their skin, sprinkle with salt and let rest 10 minutes. Drain, dry and fry in hot oil. Put aside.

In  pot with a little oil, fry the peeled and minced garlic, with the peeled and minced onion. When done, add the peeled tomatoes cut in small pieces, and when cooked, add the eggplant.

Salt and pepper to taste, and then add the walnuts, processed coarsely in a food processor and stirred in the cup of stock.

Cook at very low heat until not too liquid. It is served in the earthenware pot in which it was cooked, and can be served with a fried egg per person if desired.

Eggplant Creole

1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 can water
1 clove
2 bay leaves
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut eggplant in cubes; cook in boiling water for 8 minutes; drain.

Place butter and flour in skillet; when blended, add tomato sauce and water; stir until smooth. Add clove, bay leaves, bell pepper, onion and salt.

When sauce thickens, fold in eggplant and sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.

Thai Eggplant Dipping Sauce

You will find this flavorful dipping sauce served at the table in every Thai home!

1 finely chopped egg plant
2 shallots, sliced into very thin rings
1 red Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. Thai Kitchen Premium Fish Sauce
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. sugar

Combine ingredients and serve with your grilled meats or on the side with any savory Thai dish.

Eggplant Rollups  

2 or 3  large eggplants
 Milk, as needed (about one pint with a couple teaspoons of milk)
 8 ounces of  Feta cheese or goat cheese
 4 ounces of cream cheese
 One bunch of fresh basil
 1 onion, one or two egg whites (optional)
 3 large tomatoes
 Olive oil, salt, pepper, as needed

Peel the eggplant and cut in thin slices. Soak in salted milk for one hour then drain.

Fry the eggplant slices in some olive oil. Drain on paper towels. Set aside. Mix the feta cheese and cream cheese with some chopped up fresh basil. Add the  egg whites   and a handful of  chopped onion, previously sautéed in butter till soft (optional).  Slice the tomatoes and line the bottom of the dish with them; take each eggplant slice and place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the eggplant; roll it up (secure with a toothpick if needed).

Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with some chopped basil sprinkled on top.

Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch slices
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
8 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces ricotta cheese
6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups pasta sauce

Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt. Place slices in a colander, and place a dish underneath the colander to capture liquid that will sweat out of the eggplant. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Mix in egg and basil.  Rinse the eggplant in cold water until all salt is removed. In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Place one layer of eggplant in the pan, brown each side. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices, using additional oil if necessary.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish, evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of spaghetti sauce. Arrange a single layer of eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Top the eggplant with 1/2 of the cheese mixture. Repeat layering process until all the eggplant and cheese mixture is used. Pour remaining sauce on top of layers, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until sauce is bubbly

As long as you season eggplant well, you can roll it, stuff it, roast it, or fry it.  Get creative.  It's all good.

Tomorrow I'll share Kale recipes.  Kale is my favorite veggie for many reason.  More tomorrow.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

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