There’s one dish I always look for on a restaurant menu: Eggplant Parmigiana. I’ve eaten it all over town, though I’m sure I’ve not exhausted the possibilities. (My friend, Ann, always looks for octopus on a menu, which she finds less often than I do eggplant. Cyndy invariably seeks out the salmon.)
So far, my tastiest eggplant find is at Il Palato in Clayton. I’ve tried ordering it at my favorite pizza joint on The Hill, Anthonino’s, but they don’t carry it. Still, I continue to ask. Perhaps my persistence will indicate a strong demand for the dish, that will cause them to add it to the menu.
In the process of eggplant hunting at the grocery, I learned a few things about the berry, yes, it’s considered a berry. Here we go . . .
Most Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Eggplant
- Eggplant isn’t just purple anymore. It comes in lavender, green, and white and various shapes.
- In the U.S., Canada, and Australia the fruit is called eggplant; but aubergine in the UK and Ireland.
- Okay, so why is it called “eggplant?” Back in the 1700s, eggplants were smaller and yellow or white. They looked like a goose egg, which led to the name “eggplant.”
- Botanically it’s a fruit and kin to the tomato, chili pepper, and potato.
- China and India account for nearly 90% of the world’s production.
- Pick your eggplants when the skin is bright and glossy. If dull in color, they may have been on the vine too long and become bitter.
- Eggplants love hot weather and thrive in a sunny location much like tomatoes.
- Eggplants can be judged by their dimples. Look at the blossom end. If the dimple is deep and dash-shaped, it’s sometimes called a “female,” or “innie.” If shallow and round, it’s a “male,” or “outie.” The roundish dimpled, “males,” are meatier, less bitter, and have fewer seeds. Savvy cooks look for the round-dimpled bellybuttons.
- The varieties of eggplant available today don’t have the bitterness they once did. Even so, small eggplants are more pleasant.
- If you don’t “sweat” the eggplant, i.e. salt and press it before cooking, it will soak up fat and become greasy. More on “sweating” the purple plant in video here.
- Eggplant was cultivated by Thomas Jefferson in his garden. You might add to his many titles: “Father of the American Eggplant.”
More Eggplant Dishes That I Adore
Ratatouille or Caponata
Kitchen Note: Sweating the Eggplant
All you eggplant sweat-ers know to sprinkle the rounds with Kosher salt and let them sit for 30-60 minutes in a colander. Place a plate beneath to catch juices and a weighted plate atop the rounds. The pressure forces any bitter juices to drain out. Gently press out any remaining juices and rinse.