Friday, 12 August 2011

'apple of madness'

The meaning of eggplant in Latin mala insana means 'apple of madness'.
 Eggplant also known as eggfruit, aubergine or brinjal belongs to the nightshade family. It is thought to have originated from tropical East India. Then was introduced to Europe by the Arabs through the Iberian Peninsula, and since the 13th century has been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean.  Today it is grown throughout the world. This plant loves the sun and is susceptible to temperatures below 10 degrees celcius.

Few vegetables come in such a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Eggplants are round, oval, elongated like bananas, small as eggs, or large as melons.  Their skin may be purple, green, yellow, red to orange, and even white. The one characteristic they have in common is, the whitish colour of its flesh and seeds.  The flesh contains a certain amount of carbohydrates, very little protein, virtually no fat and a good source of dietary fibre. Vitamins and minerals are present in small amounts, the most notable being potassium, calcium, sulphur, iron, and vitamins B and C.  100 grams of cooked eggplant contains 19 calories.  Eggplant is also high in phytochemicals, which help protect against the formation of cancers.
Eggplant is delicious hot or cold. The flavour is subtle and mild and is best complimented with stronger flavoured vegetables and seasonings. Herbs and spices that may compliment the flavour include basil, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, sage, thyme, majoram and parsley.  There are a number of ways to prepare and cook this vegetable, it can be marinated, stuffed then roasted, grilled, fried, baked, added to a casserole, stew, or soup, dips.  Eggplants can be used either peeled or unpeeled.  Prior to cooking the eggplant in oil, salt is sprinkled on it to help prevent it from absorbing high quantities of oil, as well as drawing out any potentially bitter juices.  After 30 minutes it is rinsed in a colander and gently dried with absorbent paper towel.  When frying sliced eggplant it can absorb an incredible amount of oil.  Do not be tempted to add more oil than the recipe states. Just stir and turn the eggplant more frequently if the pan seems dry.  Once it is browned on both sides turn heat down, cover pan with lid and allow the steam to finish the remainder of the cooking 2-3 minutes.
  When choosing eggplant, look for firm, glossy fruit that feel heavy for their size.  Flesh should spring back when lightly pressed, a sign that the eggplant is ripe.  Store in the refrigerator unwrapped, for up to 1 week. If they are not stored properly the skin will become tough and the flesh will have a spongy consistency.  They bruise easily so handle with care. 
  Availability is year round, but the peak season is from December to March.

(Lebanese Eggplant Dip)

2 large eggplant    2 tablespoons tahini   1/3 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed,   11/2 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin  salt to taste
black olives to garnish

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
Wash eggplant and remove stems. Slit the eggplant with a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape while baking. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 30-45 minutes or until the eggplant becomes very soft and wrinkled.  Remove from oven and cool.  Cut eggplants in half and scoop out pulp.  Place pulp, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cayenne pepper, olive oil and salt in a food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. May also use a fork or potato masher.  Spoon the dip into a serving bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil over the top. Sprinkle on parsley and serve.

 Babagannouj is typically served with pita bread. You may serve it with any kind of savoury biscuits or chips.  As an alternative cut raw vegetable sticks and use in place of above.  In Turkey paprika would be sprinkled over the top.

'In everything give thanks...........1 Thessalonians 5:18'

Watch future posts for more recipes using this amazing colored vegetable 

Posted by Yiannoulla Burness


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