Eggplant is Nothing Like an Egg
Eggplant recipes are a versatile side dish, able to stand alone or as part of a casserole. Eggplant is most often seen as an elongated globe-shaped squash with a deep purple hue. The color is so closely associated with the plant that a very deep purple shade is called 'eggplant' or 'aubergine' (French for eggplant). It is natural to be puzzled as to why the vegetable is called an 'egg' plant, until one learns that there are small, white varieties of eggplant that were at one time the more prevalent form of the squash.
Ethnic Background of Eggplant Recipes
Eggplant plays an important role in middle-eastern cuisine. It is the principle component in the delicious spread called baba ghanoush, which is flavored with tahini, a strong-flavored paste made from sesame seeds. Baba ghanoush is similar to hummus (made with chickpeas), and is used the same way, as a dip for breads and veggies, or spread on toasted pita bread.
A much more recent arrival historically speaking to Italian cuisine, eggplant can be used in lieu of lasagna noodles to make a lighter, healthier lasagna. Eggplant slices can be dredged in flour and fried, and served with a cheese topping over spaghetti with tomato sauce in the same way veal parmigiana is prepared. In this case, the dish is called ''eggplant parmigiana'.
The flesh of the eggplant contains a lot of water, which cooking releases. When making soups, stews or ratatouilles, this may not be a problem, but for other eggplant recipes, such as in a fried dish, you may want to try this: place slices of eggplant on several layers of paper towels and salt one side. This draws water out of the slice. After a few minutes, flip the slices and salt the other side. Blot water off the second side. The slices are now ready to dip in batter or fry as is.
An eggplant is usually peeled before cooking. The larger the squash, the tougher the skin, and even the smaller ones, with skin tender enough to eat, should generally be peeled, since the skin's flavor is somewhat bitter.