Eggplant offers a canvas to create a meal

This deep purple vegetable can be prepared many ways, lending a wide variety of flavors to dinners

    Although most people think of eggplant as deep purple in color, there are actually many hues of the vegetable — everything from white to lavender to pale green, not to mention yellow and even a striped variety.
    Whatever color you choose, most varieties can be used interchangeably.
    This is the peak season for eggplant, a versatile, nutritious veggie — it’s a good source of Vitamins A, C and B complex and potassium with only 30 calories per cup — that can be steamed, fried, baked, sauteed, boiled, microwaved, stir-fried or stuffed.
    It can be prepared as an appetizer, main dish or part of a melange of vegetables, but however you use it, it can be delicious.
    Popular eggplant dishes include caponata, moussaka, ratatouille and eggplant Parmigiana.
    While eggplant by itself is rather bland, its flesh will soak up juices and oils, giving it flavor.
    Some people have complained that eggplant can be bitter. Peeling it can alleviate that problem. You can also salt the cut eggplant and let it sit for as long as an hour to leach out water and bitterness. Just remember to wipe off the salt.
    You can also microwave slices on high for four to six minutes, then cover them and let them stand for a minute or two, blotting them to remove excess water.
    When buying, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin that are heavy for their size and have no blemishes, tan patches or bruises. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin, and tend to be sweeter, more tender and less bitter.
    Handle eggplant gingerly so you won’t bruise it. Wrap the eggplant in a paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store raw eggplant at temperatures lower than 50 degrees.
    Once cut, eggplant will begin to darken. A saltwater bath or a brushing of lemon juice will keep the flesh light.
    When cooking eggplant, don’t use aluminum cookware or it can cause discoloration.
    When cooking eggplant, be sure to cook it thoroughly to get the maximum flavor and a creamy, smooth texture.
    If frying eggplant, dredge slices in flour or coat them with batter or breadcrumbs to help decrease the amount of oil they absorb.
    When using eggplant in stews or soups, it should be added during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to prevent it from becoming mushy.
    Following are some eggplant recipes from

Bomba Calabrese

4 large button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 small eggplant, trimmed, peeled, cut into chunks
3/4 cup olive oil
1 pinch kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 pounds hot cherry peppers
1 pound red bell peppers
3 habanero peppers
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine vinegar, or to taste

    Place mushrooms, onion and eggplant into bowl of a food processor. Pulse eight to 10 times, until very finely chopped but not liquefied.
    Drizzle two tablespoons olive oil into a skillet. Transfer mushroom mixture to skillet over medium-high heat. Add a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until mixture is soft.
    Cut tops off cherry peppers. Discard stems but save the ring of pepper around it. Wear protective gloves for this step. Cut peppers in half and remove the seed pods. Shake out the rest of the seeds. Prep the bell peppers and habanero peppers the same way.
    Place all the peppers in bowl of food processor. Pulse until peppers are very finely chopped, but not liquefied. Transfer peppers to eggplant-onion-mushroom mixture in skillet. Add remaining olive oil. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, reducing heat as needed if mixture looks like it may brown. Add fennel seeds, oregano and a pinch of salt. Cook  20 to 30 minutes, until peppers are sweet and tenders, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
    Stir in white wine vinegar and another tablespoon of olive oil, if desired. Transfer to a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, a splash of vinegar or olive oil, if needed. Transfer to jars. Store in refrigerator.


Italian Marinated Eggplant Antipasto

4 small eggplant, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped
6 leaves fresh sage, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

    Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and layer on a plate. Set another plate on top and set aside for 30 minutes.
    Rinse eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook eggplant in batches until lightly browned, about two minutes per side, adding more olive oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.
    Layer sauteed eggplant slices into a shallow dish. Sprinkle with parsley, basil, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and white wine vinegar.
    Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for eight hours to overnight.


Roasted Baby Eggplant, Tomato and Zucchini

4 small purple eggplants, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
1 pinch salt
Freshly ground pepper
5 Roma (plum) tomatoes, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
2 zucchini, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil

    Put eggplant cubes in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle salt liberally over the eggplant cubes, then let drain for 30 minutes.
    Toss tomatoes, zucchini, onion and garlic in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
    Rinse eggplant to remove salt and pat dry with paper towel. Add to the tomato mixture and stir. Add olive oil as necessary to ensure eggplant cubes are coated. Spread vegetable mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.
    Roast in 450-degree oven about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.


Baba Ghanoush

1 eggplant
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

    Place eggplant on baking sheet and prick skin with a fork. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft. Remove from oven and place into a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water and peel skin off.
    Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds and garlic in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Transfer eggplant mixture to a medium size mixing bowl and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate three hours before serving.

Air Fryer Eggplant Fries

1 medium eggplant
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs

    Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds, then cut each round into 1/4-inch sticks. Pat dry.
    Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, basil, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Pour flour into a second shallow bowl. Beat eggs in a third bowl.
    Dip eggplant sticks in flour, then beaten eggs, and then coat with bread crumb mixture. Place on a plate and let rest five minutes.
    Place eggplant sticks in basket of an air fryer heated to 370 degrees, making sure the sticks are not touching each other. Cook in batches if necessary.
    Cook eight to 10 minutes. Shake basket and continue cooking four to six minutes, to desired crispiness.


Baked Eggplant Sandwiches

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup dry bread crumbs
8 slices eggplant, cut 3/8-inch thick
2 slices provolone cheese, cut into quarters
12 thin slices salami
2 -2/3 tablespoons olive oil
2 -2/3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    Beat eggs in a small, shallow bowl. Mix flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a large shallow dish. Pour bread crumbs in another large shallow dish.
    Top one slice of eggplant with 1/4 slice provolone cheese, three slices salami and 1/4 slice provolone cheese. Place an equal-sized slice of eggplant on top. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices, cheese and salami.
    Gently press each eggplant sandwich into the seasoned flour to coat. Shake off excess. Dip both sides of each sandwich into beaten egg, then press into bread crumbs. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
    Drizzle one teaspoon olive oil in a circle about three inches in diameter onto the foil. Place a breaded eggplant sandwich onto the oiled area. Sprinkle one teaspoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the sandwich. Repeat with remaining three sandwiches. Drizzle tops of each sandwich with one teaspoon olive oil.
    Bake in 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Flip sandwiches, sprinkle one teaspoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top and bake another eight to 10 minutes, until browned and a paring knife inserts easily into the eggplant. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Eggplant Parmesan

3 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
6 cups spaghetti sauce
1 16-ounce package mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

    Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven for five minutes on each side.
    Spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom of  a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle basil on top.
    Bake in 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, until golden brown.


Easy Fried Eggplant

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups dry bread crumbs

    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in crumbs, and place in hot oil. Fry two to three minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.



Eggplant Rolls With Bell Pepper Sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into strips
1 6-ounce package mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 firm red tomatoes, finely cubed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

    Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Cook onion in oil, stirring, three to five minutes, until browned. Add bell peppers, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, five minutes. Pour in vegetable broth and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes.
    Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Quickly brown eggplant slices so they are tender enough to roll easily but not so tender they break apart.
    Transfer cooked red bell pepper mixture to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
    Combine mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
    Lay eggplant slices on a sheet of parchment paper. Spoon a little of the cheese mixture onto one end of an eggplant slice and roll up. Place eggplant roll in a casserole dish. Repeat with remaining eggplant and cheese mixture.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven about 40 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Serve with warm bell pepper sauce.




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