Sunday, October 04, 2009

Eggplant 101

Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood is now adding eggplant to his long list of oil-, salt-, bean-, grain- and olive-mavenhoods. In this bulletin, he goes into detail about how he prepares them. You can find him surrounded by his favorite things, all available for purchase, nearly every Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 pm at Activspace, 833 SE Main, #110-111, on the ground floor in the inner courtyard.

I’ve been flogging eggplant recipes all summer, so I wanted to provide more detail on how I cook it. My approach works best with a cast iron skillet, but any heavy pan might work as well. However, if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, go out and buy one. Vintage pans from Griswold are the best, but brand new Lodge skillets are fine and cheap. I wouldn’t pay extra for the pre-seasoned pans, but that’s your call (the myths about cast iron seasoning are rampant; more info about care and use here).

Again, don’t salt the eggplant! I’ve cooked literally hundreds of eggplant without salting, and nobody ever complained about bitterness. For the typical globe eggplant, cut into slices about a half-inch thick, then cut those into roughly square cubes. Put your cast iron skillet over a medium high flame and let it heat up for a few minutes, then add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the eggplant, and let it sit without stirring for at least a couple of minutes. Then use a stiff spatula to scrape and turn the cubes every couple of minutes.

Continue cooking, turning occasionally, until the eggplant is nicely browned. This usually takes about six to eight minutes. Depending on what you’re making, you can add other ingredients to the same skillet or set the eggplant aside, then add it later. Here’s a simple recipe:

Melanzane al Funghi

Literally “eggplant in the style of mushrooms,” which refers to the use of garlic and parsley. Cube and cook the eggplant (I like to let it go a bit longer for this dish, maybe as much as 15 minutes, with the last 5 or so on a lower heat). Move the cooked eggplant to the edges of the skillet, add another glug of oil, and cook at least a couple of cloves of chopped garlic for a minute or so with a diced anchovy or two (or three or four; salt packed anchovies provide the best flavor, and the rinsing/deboning only takes a few seconds). Don’t let the garlic get brown.

Stir the eggplant together with the garlic and anchovies, sprinkle with a good pinch of sea salt, remove from the heat, and top with chopped flat leaf parsley. Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil at the table.

Photo of eggplants from Finger Lakes Feasting.


Rom said...

This is a related article discussing the benefits of eggplant

Kathleen Bauer said...

Seems like a lot of their claims of the benefits of eating eggplant are not based on actual studies of people who include eggplant in their diets, but are drawn from anecdotal inferences of other data. Maybe someone will do an actual study someday. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy it anyway!