The Eggplant is one of those plants that people quite often have a love/hate relationship with. Closely related to the potato and tomato, it's fruit is considered a berry of the plant. With a meaty flesh, the eggplant has seeds that can be bitter due to the fact that nicotinoid alkaloids can be found inside them, nicotinoid alkaloids, found in nightshade plants is closely related to the tobacco family.
Removing the bitterness from the seeds of the eggplant for cooking can be accomplished easily by heavily salting the slices and allowing them to sit for awhile. You can also avoid bitterness by choosing an eggplant with fewer seeds by purchasing a male instead of a female which contains the most seeds.
One of the common ways believed for determining between male and female eggplants is by checking the indentation on the bottom of the fruit. A male will have a round shallow indentation instead of a line or oval type indentation that sits deeper into the fruit.
Scientists will tell you that the plant is both female and male and is a self pollinator with both sexes in each of their flowers.
When purchasing or picking your fruit for cooking, whether you believe they are of a different sex or not, there are a few guidelines you can follow to find the best tasting eggplant. Choose smaller firm fruit with a high purple glossy sheen to them and you'll usually find them to have fewer seeds meaning there's a lesser chance it'll have too many of those bitter seeds.
What's your favorite recipe using eggplant? I love to make ratatouille, moussaka, curries, sandwiches and eggplant Parmesan. There are a lot of different ways to make eggplant, you can stuff it, marinade it, pickle it, grill it, roast it, or bake it. You can make rollatini, lasagna, pizza, relish, caponata, baba ganoush (a dip), hummus, soup...the possibilities are many.
A classic for me is the eggplant Parmesan. I usually start by making a nice tomato sauce.
Blanch 10 Roma tomatoes, it makes it easier to peel the skin off. While your tomatoes are blanching. Dice 1 medium onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic. Heat a large non stick pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to heat, toss in onion and let cook until soft. Add garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes.
Slice tomatoes in half after peeling and chop into small pieces. Add chopped tomatoes to the onion and garlic mixture and allow to simmer.
Add 1 small can of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 fresh bay leaves. Allow to simmer for 2 hours and adjust seasonings to taste.
Place slices into a colander and salt heavily with kosher or sea salt.
Let them sit for at least an hour. The salt will draw out moisture and any bitterness in the seeds, you'll actually be able to see the water bead up on the outside of the slices.
Prepare a bread crumb mixture for dredging the eggplant slices in.
1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste & chopped fresh parsley...
Dredge egg coated slices in bread crumb mixture, place a bit of pressure on the slices after coating to help mixture to adhere to the slices.
Heat a non stick skillet on medium heat, add olive oil to coat the bottom of pan and allow it to heat well. Place slices in pan and leave until one side is a nice golden brown, flip the slice and allow the other side to do the same. If your pan is hot, and your oil is hot...the eggplant will brown nicely without soaking up the oil making it greasy.
Place eggplant slices in an oven dish, layering if needed. Place a small amount of sauce on each slice and top with fresh grated mozzarella cheese and fresh grated Parmesan reggiano cheese.
Bake in an oven pre heated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so until heated through and the cheese is melted nicely.
Enjoy : )
Till Next Time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'