In Season: Eggplant
Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.
This week's harvest: Eggplant
Eggplant is voluptuous, it feels good in your hands and tastes incredibly comforting - especially with lots of garlic. They use their come hither curves (yes, even some of the slimmer varieties) along with their shiny skin and amazing colors (purples, speckled, white, yellow, and jade green) to hypnotize market goers into grabbing at least one of them to take home with them. Occasionally, we fall for their siren song and take them home but just don't quite know how to "get it on" with confidence. We'll give you some tips for how to make some good eggplant lovin' happen in the kitchen tonight.
When are they in season?
June through September
Selecting, storage and preparation tips:
As with so many vegetables, it pays to choose eggplant that is smooth and feels heavy for their size. You want to find those that don't have any blemishes or bruises since they will make for fewer delicious bites of eggplant. Even though these nightshades seem like they're pretty hardy vegetables, you always want to handle them with care. Don't bounce them into your basket. Don't shove them into your vegetable crisper to make them fit. You'll bruise it and pay the consequences later. Be gentle and keep covered in plastic until just before you're ready to eat it since it starts to discolor as soon as it's cut.
Whether or not you peel your eggplant is entirely up to you. However, I might suggest peeling most of it if it's quite large or if you grab a white skinned one. Those tend to have rather thick skin and it tends not to cook down and will add a less than desirable tough chewy element.
Some folks rely on salting the eggplant for 30 minutes in order to help "tenderize" it. Since eggplant is so spongy, this extra step can really help but it isn't crucial to making it taste velvety and completely enchanting. Though you will want to wash off the extra salt before using to prevent the end result from tasting like a vegetable salt lick.
I have to be honest and tell you that I pretty much do one thing with my eggplant. I fry it up in olive oil with lots of garlic and finish with salt. That's it. I'm completely satisfied having eggplant just like this for the rest of eternity. It's simple and satisfying and my kids happily gobble it up right next to me. We eat it right out of the pan, as we stand there with slick fingers and silly smiles on our faces until it's all gone.
If you want more creative and interesting ideas for your eggplant, don't fret, I did some peeking around the food blogs for some fetching recipes. Heck, I might even try some of them out myself.
I love (but and getting a bit tired of) hummus. This is the perfect seasonal stand in to help me eat my Costco-size bag of Stacy's Pita Chips.
Grilled eggplant caprese salad
Swing by Pane Bianco for some fresh mozz and make this at home to make your dinner guests fall in love with you.
Roasted Eggplant and White Bean Sandwich
Looks like a perfect Meatless Monday meal
Miso Glazed Eggplant
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.