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A quick perusal of Instagram the other morning showed me that a friend was growing eggplant, and lots of it. Alongside pretty pictures of the fruit (yup - technically it's a fruit!), he wrote:

uhh anyone got a good eggplant recipe?

Yup -- I do! Plenty.

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Before we get to recipes, though, let's talk a little about this funny looking, great tasting summer nightshade we call eggplant. Some savvy cooks may know that eggplant are not always dark purple. They can be light or dark purple, striped, green, and white. In fact, originally most eggplants were white (hence the name). As you might imagine, the white globes were regularly dirtied by bugs, water, and such. The odd purple eggplant, farmers quickly noticed, easily hid these scars. Strategic seed-saving over many generations has led us to see purple eggplant as the norm.

Along with the varied colors, eggplants also come in various shapes.

Some are bulbous globes, some long and thin. Some are perfectly round.

Most can be used interchangeably for recipes, though there are some small differences in taste and texture. I was interviewed while selling eggplant in San Francisco about the varieties. I said then, and still believe, that there's a lot of subtle variety -- number of seeds, thickness of skin -- but they're all workable for most cooking projects.

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OK, enough of that. Let's talk about cooking 'em.

  • Babaganoush is my eggplant go-to. When I get back from the farmers market exhausted but eager to cook, with a bag full of assorted eggplant, I always find myself making babaganoush. Here's my basic recipe.
  • The other night someone at the farm made an excellent variation on Szechuan Spicy Eggplant, which you can find online here. She made it without the pork (some of us don't eat meat) and without the Shaoxing wine (we didn't have any) and it was still fabulous. As promised in the recipe's introduction, the use of cornstarch allows for less oil with a great, crispy exterior.
  • More eggplant-full recipes to come!