A member of the nightshade family and a botanical relative of the tomato and potato, eggplant has found its place in cuisines all over the world. Its distinctive flavor and immense versatility make it a delicious addition to any culinary repertoire and this little guide provides the basics for selecting, storing and preparing this wonderful vegetable.
Varieties of Eggplant
There are quite a few varieties of eggplant but the one we are most familiar with in American markets is called the globe eggplant.
- Globe eggplants are generally about 4-inches in diameter and 8-inches long. They're deep purple in color, have a smooth skin and are suitable for roasting, frying, baking and stuffing.
- Japanese eggplants are long and narrow (about 1-1/2-inches in diameter) and very dark purple. They have a mild, sweet flavor and are most frequently stir-fried with the skin on.
- Chinese eggplants are similar in size and shape to the Japanese variety but they have a bright violet skin. They're tender and sweet, and also ideal for stir-frying.
- White eggplants are generally smaller than globe eggplants and have either a solid, creamy, tender white skin. Like the globe eggplant, it can be prepared in a variety of ways.
- Graffiti eggplants have a beautiful, violet and white varigated skin and like the white and globe varieties, lend themselves to an array of cooking methods.
How to Choose Eggplant
When selecting eggplant, look for one that seems a bit heavy for its size, has a fresh looking green cap and is free from bruises and soft spots. These qualities indicate freshness and the flesh will be much less likely to have a bitter flavor. Store your eggplant in a cool, dry place and use as soon as possible. Refrigeration is not necessary.
A one-pound eggplant will produce about 3 cups of diced.
Eggplant Preparation Tips
A versatile veggie, eggplant can be roasted, stewed, sauteed or grilled. To prepare, cut off the stem end and bottom cap, peel if desired, then slice or cube as your recipe directs.
Keep in mind that eggplant discolors very quickly after cutting, so sprinkle a bit of lemon juice on it and cover tightly if you don't intend to cook it right away. If you are planning to sauté your eggplant, be prepared for it to absorb oil like a sponge.
If you are trying to watch fat and calories, it would be wise to salt your cut eggplant and place it in a colander for about 30 minutes so that some of the juices run out.
Rinse lightly and blot with a towel to absorb the excess moisture. You can then proceed with your recipe and your eggplant will absorb less oil.