Search

Eggplants and Rainbows...Just Because!

Have you used your eggplants yet? There are so many ways to create wonderful dishes with this vegetable. Check out eggplant pizza for a quick snack or mini dinner and have the kids help prepare it.





If you want to explore other ways to cook eggplants, here is more detailed information from Mi Ae Lipe’s book, “Bounty from the Box.”

“Eggplants are a curiosity, since they are neither much like a vegetable nor much like a meat but are blessed with the personality traits of both. They also suffer from a popularity complex, since they are either much loved or quite neglected. This may be partly because they are a member of the Solanaceae family, which includes such common vegetables as the potato, tomato, and pepper, but also the infamous deadly nightshade. This kinship caused many to believe for centuries that eggplants and tomatoes were both poisonous. “Happily, eggplants are not, and they are much beloved in Asia and the Middle East, where they are a staple in those cuisines. Although their American name (they are called aubergines in Europe) comes from the fact that some varieties resemble the chicken’s rounded ovum, Asian eggplants are slender and elongated, perfect for slicing into stir-fries. Modern hybrids come in different colors as well, with beautiful green, pure white, and delightfully speckled varieties. “A versatile vegetable, eggplant can be baked, sautéed, grilled, broiled, steamed, or braised in a sauce. They also adapt beautifully to roasting. One rule of thumb about this vegetable is that it should never be undercooked; a tough eggplant is an unappetizing eggplant. “History: India is the eggplant’s ancient homeland, where it is believed to have been cultivated over 4,000 years ago. Despite its modern-day association with Mediterranean cuisines, eggplant’s trek to southern Europe was a slow journey, and the vegetable always seemed to be more popular in the Middle East. (The Turks claim they know a thousand ways to prepare it.)

“The French blamed eggplant for causing epileptic seizures, but southern Italians happily adored it. Eggplant also found favor with Thomas Jefferson, American Founding Father and amateur horticulturist, who had it grown in his extensive gardens at Monticello, Virginia. “Nutrition: Eggplants contain modest nutrition, mostly in the form of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, and some B vitamins. A single cup of cubed eggplant contains 20 calories. Recent research has revealed that eggplant skins contain a potent antioxidant, as well as phenolic compounds that possess anticancer and antiviral properties. “Season: Commercially, eggplants are widely grown and in season year-round. But they remain a warm-weather crop, and you’ll find them at their best at farmers markets and CSAs from July through October. “Selection: Choose eggplants that are uniformly firm and heavy for their size. Avoid lightweights that have soft spots, signs of shriveling, or brown patches on their skins. Smaller eggplants are generally much sweeter and less bitter than overly large ones. “Storage: Refrigerate eggplants in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. They do not keep well and should be used within a few days. “Trimming and Cleaning: Thoroughly wash the outside of eggplants before slicing, then trim off the stem end. The skins are edible, but they may be tough on older, larger specimens or white eggplants. You may peel the skins before cutting, or, if you are baking the eggplant, scoop the flesh out of the shell after cooking. Some people think that salting and rinsing eggplant slices before cooking removes bitterness and makes them more tender.


"The effectiveness of this method is debatable in some circles, and it generally applies only to larger, older fruits. If you’d like to try this method, slice eggplants into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, sprinkle with salt, and let the slices sit in a colander in the sink for 30 minutes to 'sweat.' Before cooking, rinse the slices briefly under running water to remove the salt. “Steaming and Boiling: Whole eggplants can be steamed for 15 to 20 minutes; slices or cubes should be steamed only 4 to 8 minutes, or until meltingly tender. Boiling eggplant results in an icky, watery vegetable, so steaming is preferable, especially if garlic, black tea, or other herbs and seasonings are added to the cooking water; the eggplant will absorb these flavors. “Stir-Frying and Sautéing: Eggplants have an insatiable thirst for oil, which their porous flesh soaks up like a sponge. This should be taken into account when cooking. If you keep adding more oil, the eggplant will get greasier. Sauté or stir-fry cubed eggplant in a well-oiled pan over high heat for 7 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Take care the eggplant doesn’t burn, and stir often to keep the heat distributed, or the vegetable may come out unevenly cooked. “Baking and Roasting: Eggplants respond very well to roasting in the oven. To roast whole, pierce an eggplant several times with a fork to allow steam to escape, then bake at 350°F for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on its size. Test for doneness by inserting a knife or fork, which should pass through easily. “Braising and Stewing: Because eggplants readily absorb the flavors of whatever food or sauces they come into contact with, they can be excellent braised in a highly flavored sauce, heated to boiling for a few minutes, then allowed to cook on decreased heat for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Eggplants can also be stewed, either on their own with savory seasonings or in combination with other vegetables, on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. “Microwaving: Placed cubed or whole eggplant (pierced with a fork) in a microwave-safe dish, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and cook on high power, rotating every 2 minutes.

“Blanching and Freezing: Eggplants can be frozen if blanched first. Peel them if desired, then slice them into 1/3-inch-thick rounds or cubes. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the water, drop in the eggplant, cover, and boil for 4 minutes. Then plunge the eggplant into ice water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and pack in zipper-lock freezer or vacuum food sealer-type bags, or freezer containers. Squeeze out any excess air and leave a ½ inch of headspace (unless you are using the vacuum sealing method).

“If you are preparing slices for frying, pack with sheets of wax paper or freezer wrap between the drained slices. Frozen eggplant will keep up to 1 year at 0°F.” Featherstone Farm in Rushford, Minnesota showcased their recipe (below) in “Bounty from the Box.”

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Beans and Cashews Serves 6 2 medium globe eggplants diced into 1-inch cubes 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided 1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. 2. Toss the eggplant with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the coarse salt. Place the eggplant in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until it becomes golden brown. 3. Cook the green beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until they become crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain, and pat dry with paper towels. 4. In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vegetable oil, curry powder, the remaining salt, and pepper. Toss the eggplant, green beans, cashews, and cilantro with the dressing and serve immediately.


CSA member Marianne Wagner created a different spin on eggplant parmigiana this week: 



(Photo by Marianne Wagner) "Slice the eggplant thin and soak in water with salt for approximately 30 minutes to an hour. Drain and dry well.

"Pan fry with extra virgin olive oil until brown for 2-3 mins each side. Place on a paper-towel-lined plate. 

"Prepare your favorite tomato sauce, spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a casserole/Pyrex pan. Layer the eggplant/sauce/grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. Bake at 350° for 20 mins. Serve! Bon appétit!"


---

Remember that copies of the wonderful "Bounty from the Box" book are available for purchase.  It normally sells for $35, but is $25 for our CSA members. 

If you are interested, please call or text Marianne at 917-755-6997 to reserve a copy.

Venmo or cash are acceptable.


---

I’ll leave you with a different sort of quote. I just happened to check out Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) blog, which I really enjoyed. She has her own cooking show too that you may like. Here is a brief passage from her blog that I wanted to share:

“After all the fun of the weekend, I put on my running (walking!) shoes and took off down our road with the dogs. I ate (and sipped, oops) a little too much this weekend and I wanted to knock myself back on track as soon as possible. I've been working out more in order to shed my Covid-19 (not to be confused with the Freshman 15), and by golly...this isn't as easy as it was when I was 24 years old! Why is that? 

“As we approached the second cattle guard after I left my house, I saw this rainbow to the east of us. It hadn't rained on the ranch, so I felt a little guilty enjoying a rainbow from someone else's storm...but then I realized rainbows are for everyone. I hope everyone who saw it at the same time felt the same warm feeling of peace it made me feel. It was that everything-is-going-to-be-okay feeling that my optimistic self tends to believe on a baseline level anyway...but this was a stronger affirmation than usual.”



(Photo by Gloria Weg)


Have a lovely week and please let me know what you are cooking by emailing:

jerseyeditor@gmail.com.

0 views
 

©2020 by Monmouth County, NJ CSA. Proudly created with Wix.com