It's Eggplant season and we want to get you familiar with this super versatile ingredient - plus some recipes to try!
We hate to tell you, but this beautiful vegetable is an impostor. Whether you call it aubergine or eggplant - this vegetable is actually a berry - and we find an often misunderstood food.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family (along with potatoes, tomatoes and other common produce). Nightshade vegetables have enzymes that can be difficult for some to digest, but when eggplant is prepared and cooked properly, it’s a luxurious treat that’s incredibly versatile. So many of the world’s iconic dishes use this beautiful ingredient, like the Italian “Parmigiana di Melanzane” (eggplant parmesan), Sicilian Eggplant Caponata, French Ratatouille, Greek Moussaka, the Middle-Eastern Baba Ghanoush, and lots, lots more.
Eggplant is one of our favourite foods here at The Chef & The Dish - and we have loads of cooking classes you can book with our world chefs that will help you become an eggplant master (specifically one called Mastering Eggplant!).
Here's a guide to help you select, store, prepare and cook eggplant - plus some of our favourite recipes.
VARIETIES OF EGGPLANT
Globe eggplant is what you likely imagine when thinking of a standard American eggplant. Deep purple, large, wide bottomed with a narrowed top.
This eggplant is similar to the Globe Eggplant, but without such a wide bottom. They are more consistently sized from top to bottom and fantastic for baking, grilling, roasting, and sautéing. It's the ideal for making Eggplant Parmesan.
This beautiful eggplant, also known as Sicilian, Fairytale, and Purple Rain eggplant, can be identified by the purple and white ‘’graffiti’ like stripes on its skin. Sadly, these beautiful stripes disappear when cooked. Graffiti eggplant can be large or small, and are versatile. Their thin skin and small seeds make them great to bake, roast or stew whole.
These cute little eggplants look similar to Globe eggplants, but are much smaller - kind of like a Globe baby. They are great in Indian curries.
Deep purple in colour, narrow and long. They are creamy, not very seedy, and slightly sweeter than the traditional American Globe variety. They are great in stir-fries or sautéed in this amazing Eggplant, Pepper and Miso dish featured in our our Donburi Japanese Cooking Class.
Chinese eggplant is similar to Japanese Eggplant, but they tend to be a lighter shade of purple with white just below the cap. They are also creamy, not very seedy and have a similar delicate flavour.
These light green eggplants are tiny - think smaller than a baby potato and slightly larger than a green pea. They're popular in Thai curries and are sometimes a bit tart. They’re best when popped into a dish and cooked whole.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF EGGPLANT
Most of the health benefits of eggplant come from the skin, which contains fiber, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. On its own, it’s a low calorie food, but of course this will depend on your final recipe.
The most important health benefits off eggplant come not necessarily from the nutrients, but the other compounds, Chlorogenic Acid and Nasunin, which have evidence to support they help fight free radicals and prevent cancer.
HOW TO BUY EGGPLANT
Eggplant is one of those beautiful foods that you want to display on your countertop. When selecting an eggplant at the market, take your time. Pick up the eggplants and find one that seems heavier than it looks. The ideal eggplant should have smooth skin with no cracks. Also look at the cap of your eggplant to make sure it looks fresh and green.
You might think buying the largest eggplant is best - but we always recommend going with a medium size eggplant for the best flavour (and often fewer seeds). You can find great eggplant year round, but it’s prime season in late summer/early fall.
HOW TO STORE EGGPLANT
Store eggplant in an open plastic bag, uncut, in the warmest part of your refrigerator. It should last 3-4 days, but after that it will become bitter.
HOW TO PREPARE EGGPLANT
Whatever your final recipe will be, we always recommend salting your eggplant. Salting your eggplant helps remove some of the bitterness, but more importantly - it pulls out excess enzymes and juices and prevents it from soaking in too much oil during the cooking.
First, wash your eggplant well. Some recipes ask that you remove the skin. We prefer our eggplants with skin, but if you choose to remove it, just use a vegetable peeler. The eggplant will discolour quickly so make sure to do this immediately before making your dish.
To remove the excess liquid - simply prepare a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Cut your eggplant into slices or chunks, sprinkle a generous amount of salt - place on the paper towels and let sit for 15 minutes. You’ll notice lots of water beads forming. Blot the water off, flip your eggplant over, and repeat.
HOW TO COOK EGGPLANT
This vibrant berry is so easy to cook once you've followed the above steps. Grill, sauté, roast, bake, or deep fry… the list goes on and on. Check out some of our favourite recipes below.
Fried Eggplant & Olive Ball Recipe
This beautiful dish has been passed down for generations in Chef Daniela's family.
Involtini di Melanzane
Involtini di Melanzane translates to Eggplant rolls - and we promise, once you try this dish - it'll be a new favourite.
Melanzane A Funghetto Recipe
Melanzane (the Italian word for eggplant) meet tomato and basil heaven.
Mastering Eggplant - Turkish Cooking Class
Learn how to make three dishes with different techniques all starring Eggplant with Chef Asli
Visit Sicily - Italian Cooking Class
Learn How to Make Classic Sicilian Dishes - Pasta alla Norma and Eggplant Caponata with Chef Daniela