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Spice up your eggplant preparation

Eggplant is in the garden (Well ours is actually in large pots on the patio), and I always look for new ways to prepare them.

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. Like all nightshades, it is considered a type of fruit, but is cooked and eaten like a vegetable.

There are many eggplant varieties, which range from dark purple to pale mauve, and from yellow to white. The large purple variety is the more commonly grown and eaten. I like to use the long, slender oriental kind.

Eggplant can be bitter when either under-or-overripe. Select eggplant that is firm to the touch. Its skin should be glossy with no brown streaks or spots and should have a healthy green top.

Store eggplant in the refrigerator only if your kitchen is hot or if you won’t be using it within two days. Otherwise, keep it at cool room temperature away from direct sunlight.

Two recipes which you should try are from the August/September 2017 issue of ‘Fine Cooking.’

 

Spicy pasta a la norma

Serves 4

Kosher salt

3 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed

1 ½ lb. Italian eggplant (about 2 medium), cut into ¾-inch dice

2 large clove garlics, chopped

2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch dice (or one 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 to 1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

12 oz. fettuccine

½ cup chopped fresh basil; more for garnish

1/3 cup fresh ricotta or ¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add one quarter of the eggplant and 1/3 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is browned and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more oil if needed.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and oregano, and cook, stirring until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and pepper flakes and toss to combine. Keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the eggplant mixture, toss to combine, and add a little of the cooking water if he pasta seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of ricotta or some grated cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves.

 

Garlicky stir-fried eggplant

Serves 6 as a side dish

2 lb. Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 6 medium)

Kosher salt

1 Tbs. cornstarch

2 Tbs. vegetable oil; more as needed

1 Tbs. Asian (toasted) sesame oil

10 large cloves garlic, minced (about 3 Tbs.)

2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

1 Tbs. soy sauce; more to taste

Sliced scallion (green part only, for garnish)

Slice the eggplant on the diagonal ¾ to 1 inch thick, larger pieces cut in half lengthwise.

Put the eggplant in a colander in the sink or over a bowl, toss with 1 Tbs. salt, and set aside to drain for about 45 minutes. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly, pat dry, and transfer to a large bowl.

Sprinkle the cornstarch over the eggplant and toss to coat evenly. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add just enough eggplant to create a single layer so that no slices overlap. Cook, flipping once, until the eggplant is golden and a bit charred, 2 ½ to 3 minutes total. Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding more oil as needed.

Wipe the pan clean, then add the sesame oil over low heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Return the eggplant to the pan. Add the soy sauce, and toss to combine, about 1 minute.

Serve topped with the scallion, and season to taste with soy sauce. You can also serve this over rice.

This recipe is really delicious!