Aubergine/Eggplant is a versatile fruit. What? Fruit? Yes, eggplant or aubergine is actually botanically a fruit, technically a berry because it contains the fruit of the plant (just like strawberries, etc.). From a culinary perspective it is a vegetable because it is used in main dishes and savory dishes. It is best not consumed raw; you can saute, bake, stir fry, boil, braise, grill, steam, pickle, puree, char or stuff them. Aubergine/eggplant will add texture and bulk to any dish.
They originated from India/Burma and were carried to China and Arabia; making their way to Spain and the rest of Europe.
Just as it comes in many shapes, sizes and colours, it is called by many different names. The most common names are eggplant (US, Australia), aubergine (Europe, Asia), brinjal (India) and bademjan (Middle East).
Small Thai eggplant; use is curries and stir frys
How To Buy And Store
Look for bright glossy skin. Choose ones that are heavy for their size. When you press your thumb it should give a little and rebound back. Smaller eggplants tend to be sweeter. Look for smooth shiny skin and make sure there are no moldy spots on the skin or stem. The stem should be green.
Pick the male eggplants. Ok, there is no scientific proof for this idea. However, I have had plenty of aunties around the world tell me this, and in my own experience I have found that male eggplants are sweeter and have few seeds inside. How do you tell the difference between male and female? The male eggplants have a small round indentation or mark at the bottom. Female eggplants have a large more oblong indentation or mark at the bottom.
Do not store in the refrigerator. Store on the counter away from direct sunlight. Do not store near ethylene producing foods such as bananas, tomatoes, avocados or melons. Do not keep in plastic or wrapped. Eggplant can be prepared and frozen. Slice and bake or blanch prior to freezing. Or, prepare your aubergine dish and freeze.
Preparation And Cooking
To peel or not? My personal preference is peel larger eggplants and to not peel smaller sized eggplant. It does boil down to a personal preference. There are a lot of nutrients in the skin.
Whether or not you plan to peel your aubergine, larger varieties should be salted. This helps to remove any potential bitterness and it helps the eggplant to soak up less oil. To do this slice or dice your aubergine for your recipe. Place in a colander and salt generously. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. You will see the eggplant start to weep (get a little watery). Wash the salt off and you are now ready to use in your recipe.
One cup or 225 grams of eggplant has about 35 calories. Nutritionally aubergines provide fiber, copper, magnesium, vitamin B1, B6 and K. Aubergines are high in antioxidants and contain special phytonutrients important for your health.
Aubergine can help fight against cancer, improve digestion and help to lower cholesterol.
When you think about eating a rainbow of colours in your meals, eggplant is a good choice. While it is not particularly strong in any one nutrient, there is an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and micronutrients. It also has a low glycemic index.
What to pair with aubergine?
One of my favourite dishes is green curry. Be creative and pair miso, bell peppers/capsicum, sesame, basil, chili pepper, tofu, mushrooms, ginger, garlic to create your own masterpiece!
Caponata is one of my go to dishes. Pair tomatoes, garlic, onion, kidney beans, cannellini beans, pasta, sun dried tomatoes to bring Sicily into your kitchen!
Baba ganoush, stuff eggplant and moussaka are super versatile dishes that will be a hit on your table. Or pair with tahini, garlic, tomatoes, capers, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, walnuts or capers.
Middle Eastern Flavours:
One of my favourite middle eastern dishes is a Persian dish called khoresh bademjan (eggplant stew). Or, pair things like tomatoes, cinnamon, sour limes, roasted red pepper to create an authentic Middle Eastern dish.
There are many Indian dishes that use eggplant. Add ingredients like tomatoes, curry powder, garlic, onions, turmeric, cumin, cauliflower to create your own dish.
Grilled Farro Salad, not that I’m bragging, but it is world famous!
Grilled Farro Salad
Aubergine/eggplant is a great ingredient to use in stews. It acts as a sponge and soaks up other flavours. This is perfect for make ahead dishes as day two will provide an even more flavourful dish. Stews also freeze well and they are perfect for large groups, potlucks and introducing plant based whole food dishes with friends and family.
Grilled or roasted eggplant is another great way to prepare this fruit and then add to other dishes.
And let’s not forget one of my favourites courtesy of Remi…. Ratatouille. Because after all, anyone can cook!