Part 1 of our Four Part Mini Series:
Do you love it, or do you hate it? There isn’t any middle ground when it comes to eggplant. And I’m here to convince you to love it. Because eggplant is one of the most universal, loveable, delicious vegetables ever invented!
From China to Us
But of course the eggplant wasn’t invented. It just was, and one of the first records of it is in Japan in the 8th century, where it is described in a text as having originated in China. The Greeks and the Romans didn’t know the eggplant, yet in the 7th and 8th centuries it was transported during the Arab conquests to Africa and Europe (most likely Eastern, then western). The first written trace of eggplant was in Andalusia where several varieties were listed, including that from Egypt which was white.
Medicinal to Begin With
The eggplant was initially most noted as a medicinal. Under the Hippocratic method of humors where contradictory treatments were used to cure illness, it was a “dry, warm” treatment used against “wet, cold’ diseases. It was also used in the kitchen, where its virtue as an aphrodisiac for men was turned into a cautionary tale for women who harvested it, as they were advised to keep clear once they delivered it to the kitchen. Its negative properties included provoking anger and melancholy.
Art to Table
The eggplant has been and still is represented in art from both East and West, though today it is most celebrated at the table. Its mixed reputation comes from a false attribute of bitterness which until recently call for it to be salted before being cooked. Of course, eggplant can be bitter, but only if it is old. And old eggplant is hard to hide. You’ll know immediately because old, worn out eggplant has pock marks and indentations, brown spots and a look of fatigue. Fresh eggplant on the other hand is like an eager puppy looking for love – its skin is shiny, its flesh firm and without blemish, its whole self begs to be bought or picked and cooked.
No Need to Peel or Seed (or Salt)
When you work with eggplant there is no need to peel or seed it. Do use a stainless-steel knife as the flesh of eggplant reacts to carbon steel, turning black where it touches the metal. Don’t cook eggplant in aluminum, either, as it will do the same. And if you cut it, use it, for air tends to turn it dark too.
No Need to Drown in Oil
Something vital that I point out in the video is that, contrary to popular usage, there is no need to drown eggplant in oil as you cook it. Brush it as I do, then grill or roast it. If you must cook it in a pan, do the same. You may need to add some oil, but not too much or you’ll end up with a soggy, oily mass.
Here is How You Roast Eggplant:
- Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
- Trim the eggplant, and cut it in 1/2-inch (1.25cm) rounds.
- Brush a heavy baking sheet generously with oil
- Lay the eggplant rounds on the baking sheet and brush each with oil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Put in the oven and roast until golden on the underside, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Flip the slices and roast until the eggplant is tender and golden, about 8 more minutes.
- Remove from the oven and stay tuned on how you serve these (or eat them as is!)