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Eggplant is a vegetable with a dark purple peel which was likely first cultivated in Southern Asia. It is now popular in many different cuisines, and is especially used in the cuisines of Mediterranean countries like Italy and a number of Arabic countries. This veggie has also found favor in the American South, but you usually won’t need to look far to find lots of places that feature at least one good eggplant dish.
There are numerous ways to prepare eggplants. They can often be used as a meat substitute and form the basis for many excellent vegetarian Italian dishes. Breaded and fried versions quickly become eggplant parmesan with the addition of tomato sauce and some cheese. You can also take layers of eggplant and place them in between pasta layers for delicious lasagna.
Other people prefer to use this vegetable in cold salads. Chopped, quickly fried eggplant will absorb vinaigrette and produce a wonderfully fresh veggie salad. Combining fried slices of the veggie with garlic, pepper and lemon juice can make the popular Middle Eastern dish salatat bathinjan, which is served chilled. Another popular Middle Eastern dish is baba ghannouj, a combination of cooked mashed eggplants, oil, lemon juice, red pepper and garlic. Baba ghannouj is a terrific dip that can be served with many different elements.
There are many references to eggplant as the caviar of the poor, and you actually can make vegetarian caviar with the vegetable that many people say is extremely similar to Russian caviar. Recipes vary but commonly include garlic, tomato, red wine vinegar, and bell peppers. Like baba ghannouj, this recipe makes an excellent topping for crackers. Try it in on baby potatoes with sour cream for a vegetarian take on a caviar classic.
Many people enjoy grilling eggplant on the barbecue. It can be seasoned with various spices or flavorings prior to grilling. Others love deep-frying slices of this vegetable. You may note deep-fried slices in things like tempura at Japanese restaurants.
A few tips for preparing eggplant, no matter in what recipe you use it, include making sure you peel the eggplants. Sometimes they are bitter, and most of the bitterness is in the peel. You also may want to remove any large seeds, since these can have a sharp taste. Another guideline that many people observe is to use lots of oil. The absorbent nature of these vegetables means that oil can quickly soak up and the veggies can become dry.
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