Living Well In Yalobusha County

Include An Exotic Vegetable In Your Family Meals

By Pamela Redwine

When is the last time you included eggplant in one of your family meals?  Eggplant is one of the most exotic of all vegetables in appearance, taste and history.  Until 75 years ago, it was grown in America primarily as an ornamental plant. In Japan, it is the third most important vegetable. Eggplant is a native of South and Eastern Asia and is a member of the nightshade family. Eggplant is available nearly all year, peaking from August to September.

Selection

Look for firm, smooth, deep-purple skin.

Heaviness and firmness of flesh are also important. Choose eggplant that is of medium size (3 to 4 inches in diameter).

Avoid those with brown or blue streaks, a light color, or yellowish cast. These are of poor quality.

Shriveled and flabby eggplant is often bitter and poor in flavor.

Decay may appear in any dark sunken area on the surface. Cracked skin across brown spots may indicate a storage disease that causes eggplant to spoil rapidly.

Storage

Store as soon as possible in the vegetable compartment of refrigerator at 45 to 50 degrees F. Temperatures below 45 degrees F produce chilling injuries that will appear as ‘water-soaked spots. These spots are soft and spongy. High humidity is preferred for eggplant storage. If eggplant is not stored in the vegetable compartment, wrap it loosely in plastic wrap. Use within one week of purchase.

Yield

1 pound fresh = 1-3/4 cups, cooked and cubed

1 pound fresh = 1 pint frozen

1 medium eggplant = about 1-1/2 pounds

1 bushel = 33 pounds

 Nutrition

Eggplant contains small amounts of several important minerals and vitamins needed daily. It is very low in sodium and suitable for a low-sodium diet. It is also low in calories, with only 14 to 17 for a 1/2-cup serving.

Serving

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable and can be baked, broiled, boiled, stuffed or used in a variety of casseroles in combination with other vegetables. Although often used as a meat substitute in recipes, eggplant is not high in protein value.

Boiled-Wash. Cut in cubes just before cooking as eggplant will discolor quickly. Place in 1 inch of boiling water; heat to boiling and cook 5 minutes.

Sauteed-Wash. Cut into 3/4-inch slices (with or without skin). Sprinkle salt lightly on cut surfaces, pile slices on top of each other and place weight on top for about 1 hour. This will remove some of the water from the eggplant. Coat slices with seasoned flour or bread crumbs. Saute gently on both sides. Slices will be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Oven Sauteed-Use the same method of preparation as for sauteeing. Place in oven at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

Pan Fried-Cut eggplant into 1/2- or 1-inch slices. Peel if necessary. Dip in flour or fine dry bread crumbs, then in an egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk. Dip in flour or crumbs again. Season with salt and pepper. Fry slowly in a small amount of hot fat until browned on one side and rather transparent looking. Turn and brown on other side. Serve hot.

Broiled-Cut eggplant into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices. Brush with melted margarine. Place about 2-1/2 inches from tip of flame or electric element. Broil about 5 minutes or until browned. Turn and brown other side. Season and serve hot. Excellent with broiled meats.

Seasoned-Use marjoram, oregano, allspice, chili powder, curry powder, garlic or rosemary.

Contact your local county Extension office for more information on preserving eggplant.

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Eggplant Parmigiana

olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 large onion

1 17-ounce can tomatoes

2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. oregano leaves

1/2 tsp. basil

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup dried bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 large eggplant cut into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 8-ounce package mozarella cheese cut into 1/4 -inch slices

About 1-1/2 hours before serving:

In medium skillet over medium heat, use 2 tablespoons hot olive oil to cook garlic and onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and next 4 ingredients. Reduce heat to low and cook covered 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Place bread crumbs on sheet of waxed paper. In small dish, use a fork to beat eggs with 2 tablespoons water. Dip eggplant into egg mixture, then into crumb mixture. Repeat so each piece is coated twice.

In large skillet over medium heat, use 2 tablespoons hot olive oil to cook a few eggplant slices at a time until golden brown, adding a little more oil as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange half of eggplant slices in baking dish; cover with half tomato mixture; sprinkle with half Parmesan and then top with half mozzarella; repeat. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 6 main-dish servings. Calories per serving: 350.

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