What to do with that eggplant…

Eggplants to give away…

We have an abundance of eggplant in our garden right now and were trying to give some away. But most of our friends ask us what they are supposed to do with eggplant, which they apparently don’t usually purchase in the grocery store. So, for our friends, and others who might be offered bounty from a friend’s garden this time of year, here are some suggestions for what to do with that big, purple beauty.

The easiest thing to do with an eggplant is probably to peel it, cut it into smallish cubes, boil it with some salt until soft, and strain it. You could add your cooked eggplant to a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, casserole or soup….

About that peel. I like the peel, and I know our eggplants have no pesticide residue on them, so for my remaining suggestions, I don’t peel the eggplant, but you might prefer to peel yours. Just use a sharp knife. It’s a simple task.

My favorite thing to do is fry the eggplant. I slice the whole eggplant in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. When my kids were little and we were living in Vallejo, we dropped them off sometimes with Molly, whose Italian mother lived with her and had sewn costumes for Sly Stone, but that’s another story. Molly used to “sweat” her eggplant slices, by laying them out and sprinkling a little course sea salt over them. After about an hour the slices had “beads of sweat.” After that she would knock the salt off and blot the water with a kitchen towel. I have done the same thing ever since I learned that from her. It is the Italian way to prepare eggplant for frying.

Put the sliced eggplant in a bowl with a couple eggs and a little coconut milk. Then drop them in your favorite fry mix. The traditional Italian way would be a little flour and bread crumbs. I like to make a mixture of flour, bread crumbs, corn meal and a little parmesan cheese. Then fry your eggplant slices for a couple minutes on either side, until golden. You could just eat your fried eggplant right now. 

Or you could lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze them and then package them. You could take them out of the freezer and put them directly in the oven for an easy way to add a vegetable to your meal at a future date. 

Or you could take your fresh or frozen fried eggplant slices and make an eggplant parmesan, or eggplant casserole. There are lots of recipes online for a traditional eggplant parmesan. My family tells me that I never make anything the same way twice. What follows is one of my hybrid eggplant dishes that is pretty quick to finish after the eggplant slices are fried.

Martha’s Hybrid Eggplant Parmesan

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants, sliced and fried

3 pints of spaghetti sauce

3/4 cous cous

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice

1 package uncured turkey bacon, cooked or

1 package ground turkey, browned and seasoned to taste

DIRECTIONS

Pour the uncooked cous cous Into a 13″x16″ baking dish. 

Pour one pint of tomato sauce in with the cous cous. 

Put a layer of eggplant slices over the cous cous. 

Spread 1 cup of the cheese over the eggplant. 

Spread the bacon or the ground turkey evenly over the cheese. 

Pour a pint of tomato sauce over the meat. 

Spread the remaining slices of eggplant over the top. 

Spread the remaining sauce over the eggplant and the remaining cheese over the sauce. 

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. 

Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving or a couple hours before freezing.

Eggplant Season

We have a lot of eggplants coming in from the garden right now. I have two ways that I prepare eggplant and am contemplating a third. I fry the slices or I make my own version of eggplant parmesan (which also involves frying the eggplant ahead of time.) Either way I prep the sliced eggplant first by sprinkling sea salt over the slices and letting them sweat for an hour two. I learned that from Molly, an Italian woman who used to watch my boys when they were very young and we were living in California.

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Freezing Vegetables for Virgins

Greens can be thoroughly washed, drained, sliced and then frozen raw.

Greens can be thoroughly washed, drained, sliced and then frozen raw.

When you first start gardening, it is enough to just enjoy what you grow. But even as a beginner you run the risk of growing more than you can use of notorious growers like zucchini. If you don’t keep a garden, but miss the farmer’s market in the winter time, you could think about buying in bulk in the summertime and cooking up some double portions for now and later. Freezing is the quickest, easiest way to save your abundance for later. If you’ve never frozen more than the occasional leftovers, and your freezer is just for ice cream, you’re missing a chance to put a little convenience into your healthy diet.

Not all  vegetables are created equal. There are some that really don’t take well to freezing unless cooked first, like cabbage. Others, like cucumbers, you can’t freeze at all. There are some authoritative sites on the web that you can refer to for specific vegetables,  and squashes. One of my favorite sites is Pickyourown.org. Clemson University is also a great resource for detailed information. But you don’t have to be an expert to get started. You really don’t have to know much at all. You can freeze most vegetables quickly and conveniently. Continue reading

Smothered Eggplant a New Southern Classic

Lately the garden has been giving us lots of eggplant and bell peppers. I’ve gotten used to making a classic eggplant parmesan, and also breaded fried eggplant. When I call something classic, these days, it’s because when I look up recipes on-line I come across numerous, almost identical recipes. If I am ignorant about a particular food, a classic recipe is a great starting point.

So, the other night I prepared some fried eggplant as a side dish. I also wanted to use up some oldish dinner rolls. I cut them in half and laid them in a baking dish with a little milk in the bottom. Then I looked up some biscuit and gravy recipes, looking for a gravy to make. Another classic, I found out, is sausage gravy over biscuits, but we don’t eat pork sausage, and I didn’t have any kind of sausage anyway. But I found something similar at http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/38421/Biscuit-Gravy. When we sat down to eat, my husband mused that fried eggplant with gravy would make a good dish. So on Monday night I got out a baking dish and put leftover rice on the bottom, the leftover fried eggplant in a layer over the rice, and the leftover biscuit gravy over all that, and warmed it up as another side dish; (Monday is leftovers night.) For someone who prefers to taste the expected (as opposed to the unexpected) that went over really well with my southern husband (maybe because he thought of it.)

Most southerners I meet have never cooked an eggplant, even if they have heard of one (not common.) But if they made it like this, with their favorite biscuit gravy recipe, then eggplant would become a new southern classic I am sure! Another thing I have now done with eggplant is to make a stuffing, or dressing as they say down here. Originally I got the idea from Emeril. He has an eggplant casserole recipe that I tried. It has a lot of bread crumbs in it, which made it taste a little like a dressing. Last night I made a roast chicken. Instead of the bread crumbs, I used some more leftover bread and biscuits that I cut up in cubes and toasted in the oven first. Instead of the cream in his recipe, I used broth that I made with the gizzards and some onion and carrot. This made a delicious eggplant dressing to eat with the chicken. I managed to use up three eggplants this way. I used the rest of the broth to make a creamless gravy as well.

Yum. We eat really well around here, if I may say so myself.