What’s in Season: Eggplants

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

A Little Background
Eggplants are wonderful grilled, roasted, sautéed, pickled, stuffed (as with the popular Italian rollatini), boiled, or stewed with aromatics and herbs.  They are a low-calorie, earthy summer favorite from the “nightshade” family, which also includes tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. 

Eggplant hails from prehistoric Southeast Asia and is popular today in many cuisines from every continent.  While available worldwide almost all year round, eggplant generally peaks in flavor—and cheapness—from mid-late summer in warm climates.  Paula’s home state of Georgia is among the top domestic eggplant growers.

Their plants typically grow to about 2-4 feet tall and wide, with firm spiky stems, large, coarse leaves, and lustrous blooming fruit, making them great candidates for pretty landscaping as well as cooking.  They are also filled with vitamins, antioxidants, and immune-boosting flavonoids.  Fun eggplant fact: they also contain trace amounts of nicotine (about 20 pounds of eggplant would equal 1 cigarette)!

They come in several varieties besides the thick, bulbous kind we know in the familiar dark purple color (or “aubergine”, the French word for eggplant), including yellow, orange, white, and lavender, in small oval, larger spherical, and skinnier oblong shapes (as with Chinese/Japanese eggplant).

Buying, Storing, and Preparing
When shopping for eggplant, your recipe will probably say if a specific type is needed, but always look for shiny, unblemished skin and firmness.  For easy slicing, (and especially for grilling), choose a wide eggplant, and use a very sharp chef’s knife for even cuts and uniform cooking.

Wider eggplants also tend to have more seeds, which helps them soften.  Eggplant pieces can be rinsed and salted to tenderize and reduce bitterness, but most of today’s supermarket breeds are designed to be less bitter.

Eggplant can be stored in the fridge for about 6 days, and it becomes more bitter and mushy with age.

Wait until just before cooking to cut eggplant, as its flesh discolors very quickly.

Eggplant soaks up oil, so make sure that you coat your pan or brush your slices liberally, reapplying as needed. 

Eggplant is done when tender and slightly creamy rather than spongy, a common effect of undercooking. 

Raw scraps can add a nice meaty flavor to stock, while cooked leftovers can be lightly seasoned, oiled, and mashed for a zesty spread on toast.

And finally, onto the cooking, with some of our favorite test kitchen recipes:
-Grilled Eggplant Dip: A delicious dip made from char-grilled, garlic-studded eggplant, peeled and pureed with tahini, and served with paprika, fresh lemon wedges, lettuce, and pita.

-Easy Grilled Vegetables: Simply grilled, with red onions and squash rounds, tossed with Paula’s (or your own) dressing and garnished with basil.

***Tip: The best grilled eggplant “steaks” will have a gorgeous char on the surface and a moist, smoky flavor.  Kosher salt is great for drawing out moisture.  For marinades and other techniques for grilling eggplant and other seasonal vegetables, see: http://www.pauladeen.com/article_view/grilling_seasonal_vegetables/

-For eggplant parm:
Schirripas Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmesan
Two Sisters and One Eggplant Parmesan

-Or, for some fun, less conventional ideas:
Bo’s Eggplant Supreme
Fuentes Family Lasagna
Veggie Pizza Minis

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Reader Comments:

54321

I TRULY LOVE ALL YOUR RECIPES!!! I USED TO COOK AND EAT EVERYTHING, MY MOM WAS FROM WEST VIRGINIA AND A REAL GOOD COOK, SHE COULD MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF ANYTHINGG--- LOTS OF MILK GRAVY ETC FROM THE DRIPPINS!! I AM NOW ABOUT 62-------------- CAME DOWN WITH DIABETES AND CAN'T EAT HARDLY ANYTHING ANYMORE AND LIVE ALONE AND DON'T COOK HARDLY ANYTHING AT ALL!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! AND SO SORRY FOR THAT BAD "EXPERIENCE" PUBLICITY YOU HAD------------ WASN'T FAIR OR CALLED FOR AT ALL!!!!!!! GOD BLESS-TAKE CARE DARLENE

By DARLENE on September 22, 2013

54321

We like our eggplant fried in margarine or butter (whichever you have) then put them in flour to fry. Can you freeze egg plant? If you can should you freeze it whole or slices? Please advise. I am raising my own eggplants this year so I as wonder i I have to many if I can freeze them? Please advise, Thank You Carol Cook

By carol Cook on May 30, 2012

54321

This is very motivating!Need to head to the Farmers Market! Yumville!

By Rachel Lloyd on May 29, 2012

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm