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FareShare Gazette Recipes -- April 2009 - E's


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Eggplant, Recipes and Such

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* Exported from MasterCook *

Eggplant, Recipes and Such

Recipe By : Compiled by Art Guyer
Serving Size :   Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Volume 12-04 Apr 2009

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
(See Below)

Based on articles from the Washington Post, April 15, 2009.

Eggplant: Actually a fruit, but treated as a vegetable. It is what the
Italians call "mala insana" (the mad apple).

No need to let eggplant slices swim in oil; a light brushing is enough.
Perfectly fried eggplant slices have just enough oil to keep them moist.

The eggplant looks so beautiful in the produce display: purple and shiny,
like a new car. It is lovely to touch, too, with smooth, perfect skin that
yields ever so slightly to pressure.

However, once it comes home, its true personality emerges. Suddenly it is a
greedy sponge shouting out its demand to the cook: "More oil! More oil!"

A recipe that tells you simply to "pan-fry eggplant in oil" plays a cruel
joke on a home cook. Most cooks start with a generous amount of oil but the
pan would be completely dry after a few seconds. When more oil is added,
that disappears, too, leaving a choice of pouring in even more or having
some part of the eggplant cooked in a dry pan.

Using only a little oil may result in the eggplant being more burned than
cooked, with a bitter taste. A perfectly cooked eggplant, on the other
hand, can be a thing of wonder. There is something deep, rich and
flavorful, meat-like even, about a successfully grilled or fried slice of
eggplant that makes it worth the effort.

Eggplant's ability to drunk up oil is due partly to the spongy texture, of
course, but also because it contains compounds called saponins that have a
natural affinity for lipids. They love fat, in other words and work as hard
as they can to soak up as much of it as possible. Saponins are also
responsible for the bitter flavors that in small quantities can be nice but
in older or undercooked eggplant can be overwhelming. Saponins are believed
to help lower cholesterol and, if not satisfied in their craving for fat,
to absorb fats present in our digestive system. However, that has not been
scientifically proven.

How can you cook eggplant without using too much oil and still achieve a
decent result? Using a brush to apply oil to eggplant slices is the only
effective way to prevent overindulgence on one hand and a dry, burned
surface on the other. Brush oil on one side and then place the slices,
oiled side down, on a grill or in a nonstick skillet. Just before turning
them over brush the other side. (If both sides are brushed at the same
time, the oil invariably will have been soaked up by the time the slice is
flipped.) When the slices come out of the pan crisp outside and soft and
creamy inside, they are a small wonder, served in any number of ways.

There are also ways to cook eggplant without fat: Simply place the whole
eggplant on a grill or in a hot oven and cook until the skin is slightly
burned and the interior is soft. It yields a velvety spread that is used
for a variety of dishes, mostly of Middle Eastern origin.

Also the eggplant can be steamed and then dressed with a vinaigrette.

Then there is the salt. Traditional recipes ask the cook to salt eggplant
slices before cooking them, supposedly to remove bitterness. But some cooks
argue it is not necessary.

Salting does cut down on the fat absorption, but that effect is limited.
Brushing is much more effective.

However, pre-salting is popular for two reasons. The first is that salt
collapses the outer layers of the flesh, resulting in a more compact
surface after frying or grilling. The second, more important reason is
flavor. Salt is a great flavor enhancer, and if you enjoy the combination
of smokiness and saltiness, you should pre-salt. If you don't, or if you
require a low-sodium approach, don't sweat it.


Now what is our favorite way at the Guyer-Valencia house? We take a
different approach.

First, sometimes we salt slices, place them between paper towels, and weigh
them down with heavy cutting boards and such. Sometimes we don't! It
usually depends on which one of us is cooking. I like that approach but it
takes longer to complete the dish.

We all agree, however, that dredging them in seasoned flour, dipping them
in an egg wash, then pressing the slices in Panko bread crumbs and
baking them on sprayed baking pans at 325F - 350F until they are nice and
brown is our favorite method. We turn the slices half way through the
process. We can reheat leftovers the same way, only for a shorter time.
We have used these to make great sandwiches, in a casserole with Parmesan
cheese, or just on our plates with a dab of tomato sauce on them. Two
years ago, I created a wonderful sandwich and the recipe is at:

Eggplant and Three-Cheese Sandwiches

Here is a similar recipe for the method used in the preceding paragraph,
this one baked as a casserole:

Baked Eggplant

Serving Size: 6

2 pounds eggplant
3/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper,
then dredge with flour. Dip in beaten egg, then into the bread crumbs.
Place in a lightly buttered casserole. Dot with butter. Bake at 325F for 1


Tip: How to Store Eggplants

Handle them carefully; they bruise easily. Large, deep-purple ones will
keep in the refrigerator for about four days. Asian varieties that are long
and thin must be refrigerated, too (up to five days); they are particularly
sensitive to cold and should be kept in an area of the fridge that is
slightly warmer. Check for signs of shriveling as they age.

Contributed to the FareShare Gazette by Art; 18 April 2009.

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