This Meatless Monday, we feature recipes for Eggplant Parmesan and Simple Grilled Eggplant from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, as well as growing, storage and preparation tips.
Sally Simpson, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested these recipes. Her comments are below in italics.
Although eggplant is often associated with Italy due to the famous eggplant Parmesan, it actually originated in southeast Asia. Also called aubergine, eggplant didn’t spread to Europe until the 16th century. The Spanish called the odd-looking fruit the “apple of love,” as they believed it to be an aphrodisiac. In contrast, the more suspicious British called it the “mad apple”—as part of the poisonous nightshade family, eggplant was originally suspected of being detrimental to health. The earlier varieties of eggplant may have been more bitter than those that are popular today. There are many varieties of eggplant, from the well-known purple, oblong fruit to small, white ones that look like eggs. The eggplants that are popular in the United States today were developed for their size and ability to hide bruises. Other cultures value eggplants of different sizes, shapes, and colors.
Eggplants like it hot! Seeds should be started indoors 2-3 months before planting outside (which you should do after all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed). Seeds germinate best at very warm temperatures. To boost the temperatures around the plants, you may wish to use black plastic mulch and/or floating row cover. Some Vermonters have even had success growing eggplants in large pots set atop their paved driveways! Take care not to over-fertilize, as that will cause plants to produce more leaves than fruit. Harvest eggplants when their skin becomes shiny and your fingerprints don’t leave an impression on the fruit. To avoid slowing production, harvest regularly. Brown seeds indicate overripe fruit.
Eggplants are relatively fragile despite their sturdy appearance. They are best when used as soon as possible, but if the skin is undamaged, they will keep for about a week in the refrigerator (or a few days out of it). To freeze: rinse, cut off both ends, and peel the fruit. Cut into half-inch thick slices and boil in 1 gallon water plus 1 cup lemon juice for 4 minutes. Chill slices in ice water, drain, and pack into freezer bags.
Eggplant is high in fiber and potassium. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and niacin. Furthermore, eggplant has phytochemicals that are believed to help protect the body against lifetime illnesses.
Whether or not you peel the eggplant is purely a matter of personal preference, though some larger fruits will have tough skins. Before frying eggplant, many cooks like to “sweat” it, which means sprinkling cut-up pieces with salt, letting them sit for 30 minutes, then rinsing with water. This has the effect of tenderizing the flesh slightly. Eggplant can be baked, roasted, fried, sautéed, and steamed.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan
(adapted from eggplantrecipes.net)
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 quart (32 fluid ounces) of your favorite tomato sauce
- 8-16 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- Additional olive oil, for frying
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Slice the eggplants lengthwise into thin slices.
- Beat together the eggs and olive oil. Pour into a shallow dish. Spread out flour in another shallow dish.
- Coat the eggplant slices with flour, then dip into the egg mixture.
- Pour enough olive oil into a heavy saucepan to thickly cover the bottom and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, slide in coated eggplant slices, taking care not to splash yourself with hot oil. Fry on both sides until golden brown.
- Remove to plate layered with paper towels (to absorb excess oil).
- Put a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with a layer of eggplant, then sprinkle with cheeses. Repeat layers, finishing with cheese.
- Bake 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.
Comments from Sally:
- Cost is $9.20 for a 9×12 pan using store brand sauce and cheese
- I used 1 large eggplant instead of 2 medium
- I substituted 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs for 1/2 cup of flour. So half and half.
- Make sure to clean the fry pan in between batches of eggplant. The flour burns if left too long in pan.
- I would figure at least 1/3 of a cup of olive oil. Eggplant sucks up a lot of oil.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Simple Grilled Eggplant
- 1 eggplant
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 handful fresh herbs of choice
- Salt to taste
- Cut the eggplant lengthwise into slices that are about ½ -inch thick.
- Mix the garlic into the olive oil, then brush both sides of the eggplants slices with the oil.
- Grill strips over medium heat until tender. Brush several times with remaining oil while cooking and try not to char the eggplant too much.
- Meanwhile, chop herbs.
- When eggplant is done, remove from heat, sprinkle with herbs and salt, and serve hot.
Comments from Sally:
- Cost is about 2.20 depending on the size of the eggplant, maybe add another $0.50 for garlic, herbs and oil.
- Be careful grilling when veggies are coated with oil.
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