Eggplant is native to a wide region stretching from India through Asia into China. Unlike some of our vegetables, eggplant has changed little over the 2000+ years it has been cultivated. In different times and cultures, a varied and contradictory array of properties have been attributed to the plant. Is it an aphrodisiac, or a cure for diabetes? Does it cause uterine damage, or relieve asthma? Is it the source of leprosy, or a cure for ear disease? Today, various sources claim eating eggplant skin can reduce your risk of cancer, obesity, and heart disease (and there is limited research to back up these claims), but the important thing about eggplant is that it is delicious.
I know, I know, some of you are saying, “Are you kidding? Eggplant is disgusting!” I admit, it can be. Eggplant can be bitter, rubbery, and thoroughly unlikable. Big, mature eggplants you find in the grocery store, shipped from Spain during the winter, are often less than tasty, but there is nothing more amazing than a young, freshly picked eggplant. I seldom need to salt my eggplants (which helps if the fruit is bitter), and I use eggplant in dozens of ways. From January to April it serves as our “meat”. Grated, it thickens spaghetti sauce, sliced thin and sautéed it adds deep flavours to a stir fry, on the grill, it soaks up marinade and turns to a melt-in-your mouth consistency.
My kids like it best as the “fish” in my vegetarian fish and chips. I make up a spicy batter (just as you would for the real thing), and fry big lengthwise slabs of battered eggplant until it’s just cooked and still firm. Served with a generous tray of oven fries, it’s as good as fast food gets.
In fact, one of my favourite bar meals (back when I used to go to a bar maybe once a year) used to be eggplant sandwiches at some place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Battered, fried eggplant slabs smothered in tomato sauce and cheese in a big sub roll. Mmm!
Yeah, you may think eggplant is good for you, but to me, it’s just plain good.
Do you have a favourite way to eat eggplant?