Ingredient Spotlight: Eggplant
Also known as "aubergine," the eggplant is from the same family as tomatoes and potatoes and is native to India and Southeast Asia. Some early varieties resembled hen or goose "eggs," so this vegetable's name is fitting. Eggplants have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes- including the treatment of cancer- for thousands of years. Working this ingredient into one's diet can help lower high cholesterol and blood pressure.
The two most common varieties of eggplant are Asian and western. Asian eggplants (often seen as Japanese eggplant) come in a range of colors from dark purple to white and can be either long and skinny or round. Western eggplants are a shade of purple and come more pear-shaped. Asian eggplants tend to be softer than western, but any eggplant should be selected based off an unblemished, shiny skin.
In cooking, a perk of the eggplant is its neutrality and subsequent ability to take on the flavor of other ingredients around it. Salting an eggplant before cooking it is a method used to extract its moisture and bitter juices*. Eggplants are the base for a number of notable dishes including Moussaka, Ratatouille, and Baba Ghanoush. We incorporate eggplant into several of our own dishes such as Spiced Eggplant Steaks with Lemon Garlic Couscous, Eggplant, Chickpeas & Basmati Rice with Coriander Yogurt, and Japanese Eggplant, Zucchini, and Olive Rice with Marjoram and Parmesan.
*Chef Tip: Salting eggplants forces the water out of its tiny cells. The cells collapse as do their surrounding air pockets. Because of this, frying oil cannot enter the air pockets and make the eggplant soggy.