Eggplant 101

Did you know that eggplant is actually a fruit, but is consumed like a vegetable?

Eggplant is found in many cuisines, its subtle flavour and meaty texture makes it especially versatile for cooking it absorbs the flavour of whatever its cooked with.

What to look for when selecting:

When purchasing eggplant, look for firmness and heaviness it should have a smooth and evenly coloured skin. Avoid eggplants with shrivelled skin, as they are likely to be bitter. To check for ripeness, press lightly on the skin with your fingers if the imprint remains visible, the eggplant is ripe and perfect for eating.

How to store:

Eggplant bruises easily and should be handled carefully. Store eggplant in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.

How to prepare:
Eggplant flesh discolours quickly when cut, so cook it as soon as possible after cutting it, or sprinkle it with lemon juice to slow the browning process. If the eggplant is large, sprinkle the slices or chunks with salt and let it sweat for 1 to 2 hours to reduce the water content and rid it of some of the bitter taste.

Varieties:

There are many varieties of eggplant to choose from including deep purple and white with size ranging from 2-12 inches and shaped oblong to round. Most common are the rich purple eggplants that are pear-shaped and have smooth and glossy skin. They can range from small and young to large and mature. Japanese eggplant is long and narrow and very tender with a mildly sweet taste. White eggplant has a tougher skin and can be long, round or egg shaped and can be slightly bitter.

Tips:
Since the flesh of the eggplant is like a sponge, it will absorb oil very quickly when pan-frying, leaving your eggplant greasy and unevenly cooked.
To avoid this, salt the cubed eggplant and let it rest in a colander for 30 minutes. Then squeeze dry between two sheets of paper towel.
Salting the eggplant will remove its moisture and pressing it will compact the eggplant making it meaty. Now its ready to pan-fry!

Another way to extract moisture before pan-frying sliced eggplant is to microwave it. Toss eggplant with a little salt, place on a plate lined with paper towel and microwave until the eggplant looks dry and is slightly shriveled, which will take about 6 to 10 minutes.

The longer the eggplant is cooked, the softer and silkier it will become. The skin of an eggplant can be very thick. Its best to peel it off, especially if youre serving it in chucks or slices.

Its best to cut it right before cooking so it wont brown.