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Aubergine and Beautiful…Tasty Too…

From: Chef Bobby Perillo

Baba Ghanoush

Whether you call it an aubergine, brinjal, melongene, guinea squash, melanzane, garden egg, or eggplant the possibilities of creating something delicious are endless. Eggplant, as we affectionately call them here in the U.S.A., are a nightshade vegetable and technically a fruit. The most common type of eggplant found in supermarkets is the globe eggplant, however eggplants come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.

During the summer months at your local farmers’ market or vegetable/fruit stand here in the Hudson Valley you might encounter some different varieties such as the Rosa Bainca, Antigua, Japanese Oblong, ichiban, Casper, Black Beauty, Black Bell, White Beauty, Apple Green, Rosita, Zebra, Egg Shape in an array of colors, Dusky, Ping Tung Long, Purple Orange, and Zebra just to name a few. Don’t be intimidated by the eggplant, and if you are, do what I do and ask the vendor how to best prepare them, or consult the Internet or a good old-fashioned cookbook. Remember if you are good to the eggplant it will be good to you. If you are a gardener Cornell University has an informative online growing guide that you can use for researching and expanding your garden varietals.

Eggplants were first cultivated in South-East Asia. The plant traveled through the Middle East into Africa and most likely entered into Europe through Italy. The eggplant traveled across the Atlantic to the shores of the Americas. The fruit is popular in Eastern and Western cultures and has the ability to reflect many cultural culinary applications and flavor profiles. Eggplants are popularized in such dishes as Eggplant Parmigiana and Caponata from Sicily, Yu Xiang Qie Zi (Sichuan Eggplant), Eggplant Curry, Japanese Nasu Miso (miso glazed) eggplant, Moussaka, the lamb and eggplant casserole from Greece, and Ratatouille the famous Provencal vegetable stew. Eggplants are excellent grilled, pickled, stewed, sautéed, fried, baked, stuffed, stir-fried, and roasted.

My personal favorite eggplant preparation is Badenjan Mutabbal or better known as Baba Ghanoush. Mutabbal is a meze that hails from the Arab Levant. A meze is a small starter or offering of hospitality before a meal. The Mutabbal is a smoky, creamy dip that is served with fluffy pita bread that is used to scoop the dip. Mutabbal is best served room temperature and can be made ahead of time if entertaining guests. My preference of eggplant is the black beauty eggplant for making Mutabbal. If locating a black beauty is not possible a small globe eggplant will do the trick. The reason I like the eggplant on the smaller size is because they tend to be less seedy and bitter. Eggplants can have a bitter profile and do have a spongy texture that is evident if they are under cooked, so be sure to cook them through.

Enjoy the aubergine season and support your community by buying local when possible.

Pairs perfectly with KRIS Pinot Noir

Get the Recipe Here