The topic of eggplant came up in a recent exchange I had with a colleague. "Of all the things I buy at the farmers' market, eggplant is the item that is most likely to go bad in the fridge," she said. "I never really know what to do with it."
The inventory of familiar eggplant preparations is indeed a short list; think eggplant Parmesan, ratatouille and baba ganoush, and you're pretty much there. A member of the nightshade family, eggplant must have some residual notoriety left over from the medieval ages, when Europeans believed it to be poisonous. But its meaty, neutral savor and velvety mouthfeel make eggplant a rare bird in the vegetable world. Think of it as the poor man's - or vegetarian's - meat, and you have the starting point for a world of dishes.
The international applications for eggplant are myriad: Asian stir-fries, Italian pastas, Middle Eastern spreads, Indian curries. Eggplant can star in soups, salads, stews and sandwiches. It can be marinated and grilled, stuffed and baked, boiled, broiled or fried. Multiply the treatments by the burgeoning number of eggplant varieties available from local farmers, and you have a seemingly infinite number of options for dinner.
Eggplant Curry 'Pizza'
- 2 small eggplants (or about 3/4 pound total)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 jar (12 ounces) Seeds of Change Madras Sauce (or your favorite bottled curry sauce), divided
- 1 small zucchini
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 4 ounces shredded mozzarella
- 12- or 14-inch prepared pizza crust
- chopped fresh basil
Place a baking stone in the oven. (Don't have a stone? Preheat a heavy pizza pan 10-15 minutes instead.) Heat at 425 degrees at least 30 minutes. Slice eggplants lengthwise into three planks. Cut the planks into thick sticks and the sticks into cubes. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over medium flame; add eggplant, and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in 1/3 cup of the Madras sauce and simmer 5-10 minutes.
Quarter the zucchini lengthwise, then chop into pieces about the size of the eggplant cubes. Halve the tomatoes.
Spread remaining sauce over crust. Scatter eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and cheese over sauce. Bake about 18-20 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with basil and serve.
Eggplant Sausage Stew
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds spicy Italian sausage
- 1 large onion, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
- 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
- 1-1/2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, coarsely ground
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high flame. Add a little olive oil. Add sausages and brown them, turning occasionally. Reduce heat to low; continue cooking sausages, turning occasionally, 15 minutes. Drain sausages on paper towels.
Heat remaining olive oil in large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions, garlic and oregano; cook until onions are translucent. Raise heat to medium, add eggplant, and cook, stirring often, until eggplant begins to color, 5-10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, fennel and bay leaves. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 30-45 minutes.
Cut sausages into chunks; add to stew. Lower heat and simmer 10-15 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Grate Parmesan over each serving.