Eggplant for a hater?
So I get these weekly vegetable boxes full of, well, vegetables, in order to encourage myself to eat more vegetables. But here's the thing: some vegetables, I just don't like.
I've mastered zuccini and learned to enjoy it. I'm working on onions (cooked, ok, raw, not so much). But eggplant. Eggplant is my nemesis. The texture, it's so icky and the flavour is so blah. I just can't find myself not hating it.
And this week's box has a big ol' eggplant in it.
So, hounds, can you help me out here? Is there something I can do with this eggplant that will make me not hate it? Some beginner eggplant recipe for weak palates? Eggplant for dummies?
Given that 'eat more vegetables' is but one point in my 27 point plan for 'weighing less than a small car', it'd be helpful if the recipes didn't involve boiling the eggplant in cream and slathering it in butter, or the like, but I'm fearful that the only way to like it is if I can't taste it.
I was given some eggplant by a neighbor with a huge, lovely garden and was too polite to say "Ew, I HATE eggplant", so I paged through some cookbooks the other day and found a recipe for cajun lasanga. Made it last night and me and my partner (also dubious about eggplant) LOVED it. Peel the eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch (or less) rounds. Lightly brown it in a frying pan with some cooking spray. Do this while simmering the sauce (however you like; this recipe called for cajun seasoning, onion, celery, and a healthy amount of garlic). Boil 9 lasagna noodles for 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish, noodles, half the eggplant, a layer of part-skim ricotta, a layer of part-skim shredded mozzerella, more sauce, second noodle layer, rest of the eggplant, rest of the ricotta, rest of the mozzerella, third and final noodle layer, rest of the sauce and some grated parmesan. In the oven for a half-hour, let it sit to cool for about 20 minutes. If you're careful with how much cheese you end up using, I think this could be considered somewhat healthy. And you'll have leftovers for the rest of the week! (We finished up the meal with some sliced watermelon for dessert. Nice combination / comedown from the spicy sauce.)
Eggplant is like a sponge and it usually you have to cook it with something oily. I know this sounds hokey but you can use Skippy's peanut butter with some broth and put it all in a pan and cook it until it is soft. Maybe some soy too. You may want to mix it with some meat or some fish cakes. I've eaten this for years but I use Skippys if I run out of sesame paste (tahini).
You can slice, salt and drain as above instructions, then lay out in sheet pan and brush with olive oil. Broil, then turn over and brush again if necessary.
I was raised with eggplant parm so maybe that's why I love it. My Italian relatives never used egg, flour or breadcrumbs. When I discovered broiling instead of frying, my mother was quite thrilled with the new technique that used much less oil and was easier.
One last thing: I decided a long time ago that I like enough stuff that I don't have to like EVERYTHING. Also, eggplant does not contribute much in the way of vitamins compared to other vegetables. Just ask the box suppliers not to give you any more eggplants.
For true haters of eggplant like DH and me, nothing can disguise the taste and texture of the odious eggplant. I never buy it, never cook it, and never eat it.
The one exception I recall is using the skin of a baked eggplant as a container in which to stuff a marvelous Indian mixture. The inside was thrown out before stuffing with meat. I believe the recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey, and is delicious.
I used to hate eggplant, too, but then I inherited the community garden of a friend who moved away, which was just bursting with eggplant and tomatoes. So I started making Eggplant Caponata, and I'm hooked. I used Cooking Light's recipe, but the basic idea is:
Peel & cube eggplant, salt and drain in a colander for an hour. Rinse off salt and pat dry. Saute eggplant in a little canola oil for about 10 minutes, until it's nicely browned. Set aside.
Then add some more oil to the pan, and saute some chopped onions. When those are brown, add chopped tomatoes, and saute a few minutes more. Set aside.
Then put 1 tbsp sugar and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar in the pan, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Then add chopped olives (I prefer black), 2 Tbsp drained capers, and 1/4 cup golden raisins. Stir back in the eggplant and tomato mixture until it's all nicely combined, and remove from heat. Mix in about 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley.
I usually serve this room temp in a pita with goat cheese, or warm on rice (also with goat cheese). It's so awesome, even my anti-veg boyfriend loves it. It's pretty healthy, too, if you go light on the oil.
I like to brush olive oil on sliced eggplant and then throw it on the grill. Serve it with Chinese hot mustard. Yum!
Another idea is to make stuffed eggplant like they do at dim sum houses. Slice a japanese eggplant on the diagonal. Then make a cut in the middle parallel to the diagonal cut but not all the way through to the other side. Stuff with a mixture of groud pork and shitake mushrooms. Dip in egg and flour and deep fry. Serve with a light brown soy sauce gravy.
So the eggplant with Bolognese sauce was really good, IMHO.
Slice the eggplant into one inch circles, plop both sides in a small amount of EVOO in a roasting pan, cook around 45 minutes at 350F, put a spoonful or so of sauce on top, cook another 15 minutes, add some grated Parmesan, cook another 10 minutes.
Crunchy eggplant skin on the outside, creamy eggplant in the middle, meaty tomato sauce and melted Parmesan on top. Yummmm!
The texture of eggplant is strange to cook with because it is pretty unlike most other vegetables. It seems dry and tough but holds an amazing amount of water.
There are a lot of recipes that use eggplant by shallow or deep frying, or like eggplant parmesan, cover it in cheese and oil. This doesn't sound like what you are looking for though.
The best eggplant I have ever had was at a Greek Restaurant. Simply, spear the eggplant all over with a fork to creat a few steam holes. Bake in an oven (about 350) until soft and tender. This will take a good 30 min. When soft take it out and place on a platter. Mash the eggplant in a few spots just lightly to expose some of the flesh. Squze lemon juice over it dust with salt and pepper and sprinkle just a little feta cheese over top. If you can spare the calories drizzle with a little olive oil.
It is delish and very low fat.
I just peeled and cubed an eggplant and marinated it in some achiote paste with the juice of 1 lemon, and 1 orange, some minced garlic and then, in a hot pan, just seared it off until it was cooked through. Now, you can eat it as is, or add it to stir fries, grill or even BBQ it and you will not believe it's eggplant!
My favorite way to eat eggplant (and we're having it tonight!) is in this wonderful Indian-spiced yogurt dish. It's designed to be a raita---a side dish---but we love it with just plain basmati rice, too. Fairly low-fat, too---especially if you use half the oil called for as I do.
I recently added cubed eggplant to a bolognese sauce and it came out SOOO yummy... not a hit of bitterness, infused with the rich flavors of the sauce and red wine... Just plain NUMMY and with whole wheat pasta a great healthy dinner... :)
For something not so healthy, I love Babaghannouj made with roasted eggplant, lots of tahinni and it's still a little bitter tasting, a bit of honey... :)
A good way to disguise eggplant is to cube and bake it first. I used to do this a lot and found it to be a tasty addition to pasta sauce variations, on pizza, etc. Cube the eggplant (I never bother to salt first) and spread it on a lightly oiled baking pan, sprinkle with salt and cracked chile peppers, then bake at 400-450 or so until the pieces are sort of shrunken and chewy. They'll have a nice, roasty flavor (with a bit of spice) and no sponginess.
Can't give you a recipe exactly, but if they're skinny small asian or italian eggplants, you can slice them into quarters long-wise and roast them at 300 degrees for as much as 2 hours and then use the mush that's left in any kind of thai curry-like preparation w/ lemon grass, basil, fish sauce etc. I like to fry tofu to put on top. Make it spicy and it seems more like a drug than a meal.
If it's the big fat nasty kind, maybe you should give them away?
Heat up your grill and brush down four large globe eggplants with olive oil, then prick them several times with the tip of a paring knife. Oil up a head of garlic, too. Put the eggplants over direct heat and the garlic over indirect (if you have a gas grill, put the eggplants on the main grill and the garlic on top) and grill, turning now and again (carefully!) until it's all mushy and the garlic looks burnt.
Let it cool a bit, peel (it's very, very easy to peel). Put in a food processor and squeeze the garlic cloves out of the husks into the processor. Add the juice of 1 lemon, an equivalent amount of tahini (or, if you can't get it, peanut butter) and a heavy pinch salt. Whiz it all together. Add olive oil until it becomes a mayo-like paste (shouldn't need more than about a quarter-cup).
Serve with pitas.
Cut 2 big eggplants in half and salt, then lay face down in a colander in the sink for an hour. Rinse off, dry them, smear with olive oil, and then bake at 350 until soft, about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook a pound of lean ground beef, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a clove of minced garlic, a teaspoon of dried oregano, salt and pepper in a pot until it's all brown and pebbly. Add a 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes and a handful of pine nuts and heat through.
Remove the eggplants, make a divot in each half, and ladle the meat sauce in. Serve with basmati rice.
Egglpant parm is a favorite, but egglplant sucks up oil like a sponge if you fry it, which isn't going to help with weight watcher points. This is how I prepare it for a low-cal version.
Peel the skin off the eggplant and slice into rounds, about 1/4 inch think. Normally I would dip in egg then bread crumbs but to really save on calories you can dip in water and then into seasoned, dry bread crumbs.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Heat the oven hot, to 450 degrees F. Lay the slices on the sprayed foil and then spray the tops with the cooking spray as well. If you aren't on a diet you can always drizzle with olive oil.
Bake until starting to brown and soften, about 10 minutes. Turn the slices over, the bottom should be well browned, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until they are soft when pierced with a fork.
From here you can do two things. Have some marinara sauce (homemade is best) or jarred will work. Mozzarella and parmeson cheese. You can layer the eggplant with sauce and cheese in a casserole, like lasagna and then bake it. Or you can simply spoon sauce directly onto the eggplant slices, top with cheese and pop back into the oven until the cheese is melted.
Homemade sauce makes this taste great, but you can use whatever you have. Use skim-milk mozzarella to save on fat calories.
Frankly, I always cook my eggplant this way, whether I'm dieting or not. I find the fried version just too greasy to eat. The baking makes the eggplant nice and soft. I think the softer it is the less the texture will bother you. I love eggplant, but sometimes when it's stir-fried or made into ratatouille I don't like the texture either!
the chinese szechuan style stir fry "fish flavor" or "strange flavor" eggplant is very, very good.
there are also Indian recipes for eggplant with "pickling spices" (achari) that are tangy and excellent.
there is a japanese eggplant which is sliced, coated with shiro miso sprinkled with sesame seeds and grilled - yum.
put some whole eggplants on the grill - char until they are blackened and collapse - cut open, drain thoroughly and shred - I usually take out the seeds too if they are there - you can then process this into a great baba ganough with the additition of tahina, garic cloves, lemon juice etc. (some parsley, cumin, olive oil and mideast pepper are also nice in this) Alternatively you can take your roasted eggplant, and mash and fry it gently into a bharta with, I dont know, some indian 5-spice mix, garnished with some green coriander to finish.
whatever recipe you go with, you will be sure to salt, squeeze and dry off the eggplant before proceeding to the cooking step, right?
Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, especially World of the East Vegetarian, Paula Wolfert's books and Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan book are all great sources for eggplant dishes.
re: jen kalb
I have been making a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for eggplant in pickling spices for years and truly think it is one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. I can't make an Indian meal without it. If you like Indian food, please try this -- I'll be happy to share the recipe if you are interested.
You need to salt it first to get rid of the nasty bitterness. Just slice the eggplant, lay it on a perforated sheet pan in the sink, and sprinkle salt on. Then let the juices exude for half an hour or so.
Rinse, pat dry, and then do whatever you do with eggplant.
Eggplant is always easy to use in a ratatouille... or I make something like fauchon does - it's Afghani eggplant. After it's fried, a sauce with tomato puree, garlic and cumin goes on top for baking. Once baked, the thick yogurt is mixed with mint and served on top. It's good!
Peel and cube a large globe eggplant. Salt lightly and place in a strainer. After 15-20 give each piece a couple of squeezes until the eggplant looks less spongy and texture is noticebly different. Saute in 1/3 cup olive oil for around 10 minutes. The eggplant will both absorb and release eggplant. When it is mostly cooked, add two minced garlic cloves and 1/2 pd. Shitake mushrooms that have been stemmed and thickly sliced. Saute another 5-10 minutes until eggplant and shitake are fully cooked. Add several large handfulls of Italian parsley and toss with 1 lb. pasta.
The eggplant becomes very tender and absorbs a lot of mushroom flavor. If you want a less aggressive shitake mushroom flavor then sub. 1/2 the shitakes for buttons.
I learned this "recipe" from a Turkish friend: slice eggplant, sauté in olive oil (or grill if you want save a few calories), serve with Greek (or thick) yogurt, sprinkle with chopped garlic (raw) and parsley (and Aleppo pepper if you have some). This is incredibly simple & every time I serve it, no matter how much I make, it's always gone. Even people who don't like eggplant like this....