Back then, I still ate breaded frozen fish sticks, so I can't claim my palate was well developed enough to enjoy the soft but meaty texture of the super-abundant summer vegetable.
Like tomatoes and potatoes, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and comes in a gorgeous selection of purple, white and green. As Americans, we have some ground to make up to incorporate eggplant into our culinary repertoire. Italy, Turkey and Greece all claim to have more than 100 ways to cook eggplant. Right now, I've got five -- but I'm working on it.
The local bumper crop is in full swing. Look for glossy and unblemished skin and fruit that feels heavy and firm. The raw texture is spongy. Large or old eggplant will have a seedy texture. I prefer them a little smaller, with almost no seeds. Cooking -- grilling, baking, frying and sautéing are your best bets -- makes the texture almost creamy. Some folks heavily salt, rinse and squeeze dry the eggplant before cooking to draw out bitterness and deflate the air pockets (keeps it from absorbing too much oil).
However, with really fresh eggplant, I've had great success without any salting.
Eggplant is a star on local restaurant menus including Mayuri on Quince. The Cove puts it on their Italian veggie pizza, and you'll find variations on the classic Eggplant Parmesan at restaurants like Grill 83 and Ciao Bella. If you're lucky enough to see the eggplant-fig ravioli on the menu at the Brushmark, trust me, that's your pick for lunch.
The bland flavor works as a canvas for the robust flavors of summer. Herbs, tomatoes, garlic and lemon are the eggplant's friends. Use strips of eggplant in place of lasagna noodles to hold up the sauce and cheesy goodness. Brush with olive oil and grill. Or cut in half and bake cut-side down until soft; then puree with garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to make the classic Baba Ghanouj to use as a dip or spread.
With something this plentiful, it's use it or lose it. Start with one or two. Don't worry.: Dad won't be leaving extras from his garden on your doorstep (he lives in California and has never grown eggplant since that one fateful year).
Melissa Petersen is the editor of Edible Memphis, a magazine that celebrates the abundance of local food, season by season. It is available at various locations around town. Contact her at ediblememphis.com.
Source: Commercial Appeal
by Melissa Peterson