Though the French love eggplant (see ratatouille) it is so much a southern vegetable that in my northern French life when I ate at friends’ homes I didn’t see it on the table much. I would say everyone I know loves it, as I witnessed when they came to my home to eat, but they didn’t venture to cook it often. It’s the southern French, the Italians, the cooks of the Middle East or the Maghreb who are true eggplant artists of the world, pureeing it or grilling it, combining it with sesame or chocolate, using it with tomatoes in sauces, teaming it with zucchini and onions…and the list goes on.
Eggplant is Queen
In my world, though, eggplant is queen when the season is appropriate. The minute my friend Baptiste, a maraîcher or grower in Normandy, had eggplants to offer I bought them. Like Archimboldo who made fanciful paintings using eggplant as an element or Matisse who sprinkled them about his art as well, I used eggplant everywhere. I still do, and I try it whenever I can so that if I see it on a menu I order it because I’m curious about what chefs do with it. If I have friends coming for dinner and it’s eggplant season, I cook and offer it. And when my often-vegetarian or vegan children are here, well, eggplant is a must.
Understand the Eggplant
It’s so very easy to cook eggplant, but one must understand it a bit. For one thing, it is mostly water so boiling it isn’t the ideal cooking method. Roasting, grilling, or pan-frying (snacké) as here are better methods to bring out its goodness for they seal in its moisture and concentrate its flavor and texture. If eggplant is cooked correctly – and it’s so easy to do this – it is almost fluffy on the inside while being golden and crispy on the outside.
Steamed and Snacké
Here, a whole eggplant is steamed, cut into chunks, then seared over high heat and seasoned with soy sauce or tamari. The steaming cooks it, the searing seals each piece and the soy sauce turns it into a simple “delice”. When you taste this, you’ll not be quite sure what you’re eating, and if you make your guests guess, you’ll get all sorts of responses.
You May See More
Suffice it to say that there are likely to be more videos on this oh-so-versatile vegetable because it is delicious, it can easily be served as a meat substitute, and if you’re hankering for wild mushrooms but it’s not the season then the eggplant can help you out.
Try this, you’ll love it! Bon Appétit!
EGGPLANT DISGUISED - AUBERGINE DEGUISÉ
- 2 large, about 1 pound; 500g each eggplant, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon untoasted peanut or other neutral oil
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- ½ cup 5g basil or parsley, for garnish
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat in the bottom half of a steamer. Place the eggplant in the steamer, cover and steam until the eggplant is tender through and slightly soft when you touch it, 15 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the steamer and let cool to room temperature.
- Cut the eggplant into ½-inch (1.7cm) cubes.
- Right before serving, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, sauté the eggplant slices, turning them regularly, until they are golden on all sides, which will take 4 to 5 minutes. Just before you remove the eggplant from the heat, drizzle the soy sauce over the slices and slip them in the pan or flip them using tongs, rubbing them in the soy sauce as you do, so the sauce is completely blended with the eggplant.
- Transfer the eggplant slices to a large platter.
- Coarsely chop the herbs and sprinkle them over the eggplant. Serve immediately.