The eggplant is originally native to the East India and has been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years. Over the centuries, the fruit vegetable also reached Europe and America. Today it is an integral part of many Indian dishes as well as an important ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Eggplant has also become extremely popular. No wonder: the eggplant, which is also called egg fruit because of its shape, can be prepared in many different ways in the kitchen and is a component of many delicious recipes. Due to the cultivation in China, Japan, Turkey, Egypt and others in large measure the eggplant is to be found in the meantime all around the year in the vegetable shelf. In temperate weather, you can also grow the delicious vegetable in your garden. Then the main harvest time falls between August and October.
In addition to the classic large, elongated fruits with dark purple skin, there are countless varieties of different sizes and a wide variety of colors such as pale purple, yellow, white or purple-striped. They usually differ not only in appearance, but also in taste, consistency and uses. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for unusual eggplants when shopping.
How to prepare eggplant: The most important things in a nutshell
Fresh and ripe eggplant can be recognized by a smooth and shiny skin that yields easily to finger pressure. The skin is edible and softens when heated during preparation. To dehydrate, cut the vegetables into small pieces, place them in a colander and sprinkle evenly with salt. After about half an hour, dab the flesh with a kitchen towel before further processing.
How to recognize a ripe eggplant?
The best way to recognize fresh eggplant is by its smooth, shiny skin as well as its plump and relatively heavy fruit. If the surface yields slightly when pressed gently with the thumb, the flesh is ripe and ready for the cooking pot. If, on the other hand, the egg fruit is hard and unyielding, this indicates that it is still unripe. In this case, the flesh is usually still hard and becomes chewy and bitter during preparation.
Although eggplants can be stored in a cool place for two or three days, the fresher they are, the milder they taste. Therefore, eggplants should be used in recipes as soon as possible after purchase. Once the fruits are overripe, they have a spongy or dry texture and lose flavor quickly.
Is the skin of eggplants edible?
The shiny skin of eggplants is edible without hesitation and even rich in B vitamins. Heating softens the skin during preparation, so you don’t need to peel the fruit vegetable for most recipes. However, there is one exception: If eggplant is pickled in vinegar as delicious antipasti, the peel can develop a bitter taste over time. Although this is harmless, it considerably reduces the taste. Therefore, in this case, it is recommended to remove the skin of the eggplant. To do this, you can either use the peeler, or briefly scald the vegetable with hot water. Then the skin can be easily peeled off, similar to tomatoes.
Do you need to salt eggplants before preparing them?
Whether you want to desalt eggplant first before grilling or cooking is a matter of taste and time. The salt is supposed to remove water and bitterness from the flesh, making it softer and milder in flavor. It also means you need less oil when sautéing. To dehydrate, slice or dice the fruit vegetables, place them in a colander and sprinkle salt evenly over them. After about half an hour, dab the flesh with a kitchen towel before preparing the eggplant.
How to prepare eggplant for recipes?
Fry or cook eggplant
To fry, first wash the eggplant and cut it into the desired shape. Salt cubes or slices, pat dry and then fry in a hot pan in good vegetable oil, such as olive oil, for about five minutes. How long you heat the flesh depends on the thickness of the eggplant slices or cubes and determines how soft they will ultimately become.
If you want to forgo salting and still use less fat, you can heat the oil while it’s still cold in a pan or pot along with a dash of water. This will initially cook the flesh until it is nice and soft without filling up; once the water has evaporated, it will start to sizzle in the oil.
Bake eggplant in the oven
Preparing eggplant in the oven eliminates the need to salt and drain them in advance. Depending on which recipe and dish you choose, the fruit is halved lengthwise, cut into round slices or divided into equal-sized cubes. In addition to moussaka, a delicious Greek casserole with eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and ground meat, vegetarian lasagna is also very popular. Here you simply replace the meat with eggplant.
Another classic, which is quick and easy to make, is eggplant au gratin. To make it, cut the fruit lengthwise into two halves, fill them as you like, for example with previously fried minced meat or stewed vegetables, and finally gratinate the whole thing with plenty of cheese in the oven.
A typical appetizer from the oriental cuisine is Baba Ghanoush. For this creamy and spicy dip, eggplant is mixed with plenty of garlic, salt, lime juice, sesame paste (Tahini) and aromatic spices such as cumin, chili or cinnamon. Leave the vegetables whole, but poke a few holes in the eggplant with a shish kebab or toothpick. This will keep it from bursting open in the oven. Then scrape the soft flesh with a tablespoon from the still hot halves.
You can also grill whole eggplants, which gives them a wonderful smoky flavor. Classically, however, you cut the eggplant into finger-thick slices, preferably along the length of the fruit, so that they do not fall through the grill grate so easily. Then brush them with a little oil and season with salt, pepper and chili to taste. Alternatively, let the vegetables sit in a marinade of olive oil, a little lemon juice, pressed garlic and spices for about twenty minutes before placing them in the grill pan or grill pans on the grate. There, grill the eggplant for about ten minutes on both sides.
If you still want to enjoy your own harvest in winter or if antipasti is one of your favorite dishes, you can preserve and refine eggplants by pickling them. To do this, peel the egg fruits, cut them into equal-sized pieces and desalt them. Then cook them for about twenty minutes in a broth made of two parts water with one part vinegar until soft. Then squeeze the flesh slightly, sprinkle it with a pinch of salt as well as Mediterranean herbs, put it in sterile preserving jars and pour them with olive oil. To keep the preserves as long as possible, always cover them with oil and store them in the refrigerator.