This summer has brought an abundance of eggplants to many backyard gardeners. But therein lies the problem: Not everyone knows what to do with a big basket of solanum melongena.
For the uninitiated – or the unbelievers – an eggplant is like a sponge that soaks up the flavor of anything in which it is cooked. This quality makes it versatile, and helps explain why eggplant appears in cuisines across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
It’s sturdy enough to withstand frying, grilling, and baking, which makes it a great vegetarian substitute for meat.
People who claim to dislike eggplant have probably never dipped a warm piece of pita into a smoky baba ganoush. Or maybe they haven’t dug a fork into a cheese-and-tomato-layered melanzane alla parmigiana. That sort of oversight can be corrected with one good meal.
But many kids somehow seem to possess a radar detector and inborn dislike for eggplant. The best way around this is to peel the eggplant, slice it thinly; then salt, season, and fry the slices in oil and add them in small amounts to hearty casseroles or lasagna.
Baker and all-around foodie Judy L. Mayer recommends using the slender Japanese variety of eggplant in combination vegetable dishes such as ratatouille. “The taste is much milder, and the long, thin shape allows you to slice them like zucchini,” she suggests. In this way, they can be stir-fried, sautéed, or stewed.
Even culinary icon Julia Child includes several eggplant recipes in her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.
If you still have more eggplants than you can cook, eat, or give away, there’s one last piece of no-fail advice we can share: Next year, plant beans.