Intimidating, consistently confusing eggplant

Chef Babz Goldman
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Summer, sure played catch-up these last few weeks. Although the crops seemed slow to generate throughout summer, this August has done anything but disappoint. All at once, my phone began ringing with farmers who had eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and other delicious goodies ripe for the cooking. As a result, not only have I been upping my farm fresh game, but I’ve had veggies as gifts for friends every time I step foot out of the kitchen. But tomaaaaaato tomahhhhto, potaaaaato potahhhhto isn’t always the case. A lot of folks have appreciated the gift in the moment, but a few hours later I will receive a message or a phone call asking what exactly the veggies were I gave them, and what suggestions I can offer. The most consistently confusing of the batch, the eggplant. Used widely all over the world, the eggplant, also known as the aubergine, brinjal, guinea squash, orgarden egg, grows in a variety of shades and shapes. Some dark shades of purple, others white or violet.

Many are large and robust, while others are small and egg-like. In many cultures you will see the eggplant on tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Eggplant Tips

-Prepare the eggplant by cutting of the top and blossom ends.

-Note male and female eggplant differences. Male are more bitter, as they have many more seeds. The

stem-end of the males extrudes. Female eggplants, on the other-hand, go inward more, have fewer seeds

and are less bitter.

-White eggplants, oriental eggplants, are the mildest and sweetest. This is because the darker the

covering, the more bite. The darker are usually best when peeling off in strips. Don’t peel the skin

completely off as you will want texture and taste in your dish.

-Look for firm and heavy with a rich dark color free of bruising, cuts, and scars.

Wrinkled or loose eggplants are most likely bitter. The richer, brighter the green stem/cap, the

fresher and less tart. -Use eggplant within 3-4 days of purchasing. -Keep refrigerated.

-After slicing eggplant, sprinkle with salt on one side with salt for about 15 minutes. You will

notice a deep sweat is evoked from the plant. Flip eggplant, sprinkle with salt, let set for fifteen

more minutes

A favorite item to surprise guests with, I am always pleased when folks are astonished to find out they are eating and enjoying eggplant so much.

It may seem complex, but the eggplant is really a simple and humble fruit. Give it a try. It won’t take long to realize the eggplant really produce simple, no fuss dishes, using only a few ingredients. Low-cost and low-stress

cooking is something any chef won’t fight when the results are this delicious.

Good luck and enjoy!

Eggplant Fries with Tztaziki Dipping Sauce

Serves 2

Preheat oven 425 degrees

2 medium eggplant

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried sage

Salt and pepper to taste

Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Cut eggplant into 1 inch rounds. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Pat dry. Cut the slices into fry style of your choice. In a large bowl, mix bread crumbs, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Dip each slice into flour, then in the eggs, then coat with dry mix. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray. Place rack on baking sheet, then arrange fries on top of rack. Spray fries with spray and place in oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Dipping Sauce 2 medium cucumber, partially peeled (striped) and sliced

2 tsp kosher salt, divided

10 garlic cloves, peeled, finely grated or minced (you can use less if you prefer)

2 tsp white vinegar

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cups Greek yogurt 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, beginning with the cucumber. Chill. One day prior to using is best, but two hours will also work if your in a pinch.

Baba Ghanoush

A favorite dish of mine, this easy dip can be served as creamy, garlic-loved, or tart as you would like. It is

wonderful to eat with chips, pita, olives, cucumbers, or smeared on a slice of bread. Garnish with a

teaspoon of olive oil and fresh herb leaves.

Serves 4

1 large or two medium eggplant

3 copped garlic cloves

Juice of one lemon

8-10 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste; can be found in major groceries in international section)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Slice eggplant into long strips. Smother each strip with olive oil. The goal is to char or blacken the

eggplant slightly before mixing additional ingredients. This can be achieved by placing directly over the

flame of a gas stove, placing on coals, baking until almost burned, or throwing on the grill.

Once effect has been reached, allow eggplant to cool for thirty minutes. A lot of recipes will tell you to

peel the skin off the eggplant flesh, but personally I love leaving it on. I enjoy the crispy bits of the skin as

well as the small peaks of color within the beautiful dip.

Place eggplant into food processor and puree. Add garlic and tahini until smooth. Mix lemon and salt to

taste. If mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water or olive oil.

Spoon into bowl, garnish, and serve at room temperature. If you actually have any left, it will stay good

in the fridge for several days.

Garlic Sauce Eggplant and Green Beans

Serves 2

A common Chinese dish, this can be served as a side or is wonderful on top of meats, drenched in sauce.

Additional heat can be added if you are looking for more spice.

4 tablespoons cooking oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 green onions

2 fresh chili peppers or dried red peppers (use less if desired)

4 cloves garlic minced (feel free to add more)

1 teaspoon salt

2 long eggplant cut into strips

100g green beans, trimmed and halved

Heat cooking oil in large pan or wok. Add eggplant. The eggplant will absorb a lot of oil in the the

beginning, but then they will release extra oil when well cooked. If not enough oil is used the beautiful

purple will disappear and darken. The oil will help hold the color in. Don’t worry if it seems excessive,

the oil will be used later.

Transfer eggplants out and leave remaining oil. Add garlic, green onions, chili pepper. Fry for one

minute and add green beans. Mix and fry for six minutes or until there are wrinkles on the surface of the

green beans.

Add cooked eggplant, stir in soy sauce. Mix all ingredients. Fry for 3 more minutes and serve hot!

The photo and recipes used in todays article are from the kitchen of Chef Babz ([email protected]) with a little help from her grandmother, Louise Osborne.

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Chef Babz Goldman