This week’s seasonal vegetable(fruit?) is the highly underrated eggplant.
Eggplants get a bad rap. They are the vegetable that everybody loves to grow and no one wants to eat. Beautiful and sweet looking, hanging there on their stalks, these pretty little plants hide a weird, spongy, bitter soul beneath their tantalizing exterior.
As members of the nightshade family, eggplants are akin to tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, however, unlike their cousins, eggplants are just about inedible in their raw form. Their intense bitterness and bizarre texture is often what puts off many a folk to trying this versatile fruit.
Once cooked, eggplant loses much of its bitterness (especially if it is salted and rinsed first) and its spongy texture becomes soft and silken and ready to absorb just about any sauce you can think of.
I find that beginners are best off trying eggplant in a dish with a sauce first, to get a feel for the texture and to marvel its adaptability. Eggplant Parmesan is always a nice beginners dish, but my favorite is Chinese Eggplant in Garlic Sauce like this recipe from Omnivore’s Cookbook.
Already an eggplant lover? Try my Sesame Eggplant Soup for a taste of something a little different. Best served chilled, this soup can be served warm too, but if you are being adventurous anyway, why not give cold soup a try?
Sesame Eggplant Soup
Makes 4 servings
1 T Olive oil
1 large eggplant, diced
1 large bell pepper (any color,) diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart water
1/4 c raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t sea salt + additional for salting the eggplant
2 T tahini (if tahini is not available natural peanut butter can be substituted. You’ll just have to change the name of the soup.)
1 T Fresh parsley
zest of 1 lemon
- Sprinkle eggplant with salt, toss to coat evenly, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Place eggplant in a colander and rinse with cool water to remove salt and bitter juices.
- In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the eggplant, pepper, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and turn a golden hue.
- Add about a 1/4 cup of the water and the soaked cashews to the pot, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Once vegetables are nice and soft, stir in the cumin, salt, tahini, and the remaining water and simmer for 10 minutes more. In the last-minute add the parsley and lemon zest.
- Using an immersion blender or counter top blender purée the soup until very smooth.
- Enjoy warm or better yet chilled.
Still not ready to give eggplant a try? Check out what else is in season this week courtesy of Eat The Seasons: