Did you know eggplant is not a vegetable? You heard me, a member of the nightshade family, it is related to the potato and tomato. Though commonly thought of as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit…specifically a berry. Who knew? Ranging in color from deep purple to white it can be 2 to 12 inches in length in shape from oblong to round. A common variety in the United States is pear shape with a deep glossy purple skin, also called globe eggplant. Gaining popularity in recent years is the Japanese variety which is long and slender and the Thai which is round and sized like a golf-ball. High in antioxidants, it is a nutritious and delicious food. Peak season for this fruit is August/September or slightly longer depending on the climate. Eggplant become bitter with age and are very perishable so seasonal and local is preferrable as are all foods as stated in “the truth according to Queen Jeanne.” When choosing one of these beauties, pick one that is firm, smooth skinned, heavy for its size and without blemishes. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and eaten within a day or two. When young, the skin on most varieties is deliciously edible; older eggplants should be peeled. Since the flesh discolors rapidly, it should be cut just before preparation. Some people prefer to salt it for 20 minutes or so before cooking to release some of the bitterness but unless the fruit is overripe, I do not feel this is necessary. If you are planning on frying it, be aware that it is much like a sponge and will soak up a lot of oil so be sure it is well coated and the oil is hot.
This year I planted two varieties of eggplant in my garden, globe and Japanese. Although I usually prefer the Japanese for its more delicate taste and fewer seeds, I love to watch the development of the larger ones. Their larger plant produces beautiful purple flowers that yield glorious aubergines which it is so poetically called by the French. Growing them also allows for picking when they are young and small which adds tremendously to their culinary appeal; tender with fewer seeds and bitterness. Fear not, you non-gardeners, I do go on with my gardening enthusiasm but I am sure you will find the perfect specimens at your local farmers market.
This is a very simple and delicious preparation for grilled eggplant that I have been making for many years. My daughter reminded me yesterday that she and her brother loved it so much as kids they would request it as part of their special birthday dinners. With that memory fresh in my mind I made it for dinner last night. It is so easy it is barely a recipe. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.
Recipe Serves 2
4 medium Japanese eggplants
Olive oil, enough to coat the eggplants
Soy sauce, preferably naturally brewed
Toasted sesame oil
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat.
- Rub each eggplant with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Puncture the skin of each with a pin or the tip of a sharp knife (this is important or the eggplant will explode).
- Place each eggplant on the hot grill turning every few minutes until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft.
- Remove and allow to rest for a minute or so.
- Cut the stem end off each eggplant (optional) and split lengthwise. Open them up exposing the flesh.
- Drizzle lightly with soy sauce and sesame oil.
- Serve, eating the flesh and leaving the charred skin.
I wasn’t joking, easy, right? I prefer the Japanese eggplant for this recipe but if you can get small globe variety, they work as well.
I have a few other recipes for eggplant that I think you will love so keep you eyes open for them. What eggplant tricks do you have up your sleeve? Let’s hear it!