Making Eggplant Extraordinary
Globe eggplant are the large, purple eggplant we find in most supermarkets and farmers markets. They weigh a pound or two on average and have a pear shape. The smaller specimens generally have fewer seeds and are less bitter. Eggplant can be prepared whole, or cut into smaller manageable pieces. The eggplant can be peeled or the skin can be left on. Common cooking methods include broiling, roasting, grilling, and frying. Cooking eggplant correctly takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, the vegetable is very versatile and should be part of your cooking arsenal.
Globe eggplant can be cooked whole, generally roasted in the oven or grilled over direct heat. The skin is usually left on when cooked whole and removed after the eggplant softens. For most recipes, the eggplant is used in smaller pieces, often sliced lengthwise into long flat 1/2-inch thick slices, or cubed or diced into bite-sized pieces. Peel and cut into the desired size pieces called for in your recipe. Salt the pieces liberally and then place them into a colander for up to an hour. Rinse the pieces thoroughly with water to wash off the salt and then carefully squeeze the pieces to remove excess liquid. The process removes the bitter flavor in the juices and collapses the air pockets in the flesh. Place on paper towels and pat thoroughly dry. Reducing the air pockets makes it more difficult for oil and other cooking liquids to destroy the texture of the eggplant when cooked making it soggy or oily. The result is a desirable rich, creamy texture.
Eggplant is most popular in the states during the summer and early fall, during peak season. Additional seasonal varieties make their way onto store shelves and into farmers and specialty produce stores. They can range from cigar to football size in shape, and weigh a few ounces or several pounds. The different varieties cook similarly with subtle differences in the finished product. Cooking times can vary greatly. Larger varieties generally have more seeds than smaller varieties and can have a bitter taste when cooked. Any potential bitterness can be averted with proper preparation and cooking.
Eggplant can be grilled or broiled like a steak, combined with other rich ingredients in casseroles, stir-fried and tossed over rice, roasted and turned into a dip for crackers or a spread for garlic toast. The culinary ideas are limitless. The versatile vegetable when properly prepared and cooked is absolutely delicious, and extraordinary.
Check out our growing collection of the best, taste-tested eggplant recipes with cooking tips and techniques. Find the classic eggplant parmesan as well as creative new ways to take an ordinary eggplant and turn it into an extraordinary dish.
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