My first "rendezvous" with fairy tale eggplant!
One of my favorite ways to decide "what's for dinner" is to simply stroll around the produce section in Whole Foods Market, and see what jumps out at me. First and foremost, I look for produce that is organic, local & seasonal. So, when I saw these gorgeous, violet-purple fairy tale eggplants ... how could I resist! I knew I was going to make something delicious with them. And yes, the "Fairy Tale Eggplant Sauté" was a big hit with my family so I'm sharing it with you!!
Why is eggplant called eggplant?
The origin of eggplant dates back to the 1700's where the Europeans named it for its similar shape and size to goose eggs.
Eggplant is also referred to as aubergine, or brinjal. It is most often considered a vegetable, but it is a berry (fruit) by botanical definition.
Why are they called "fairy tale" eggplants?
To me, they are quite "enchanting" little eggplants (as if from a fairy tale), with beauty in its violet color, sweetness in its taste and petite charm in its size!
*Please share in the comments section, if you know the origin of "fairy tale" eggplant.
How do I choose eggplant?
Italian eggplant (what we typically see in the market), is available year-round, but the season for eggplant is at its peak from July to October. There are many sizes, colors and varieties of eggplants to choose from - Italian, Graffiti, White, Japanese & Chinese, Indian, Little Green and Thai .... to name a few.
Fairy tale eggplant only grow to about 4 inches in length and are about an inch in diameter.
Tips for buying eggplant in general: Eggplant should be firm but not hard, smooth & shiny, and free of brown blemishes or soft spots. Male eggplant have a brown circle on the bottom and tend to have less seeds. Some feel smaller eggplants are better in taste but keep in mind that size doesn't necessarily determine the bitterness of the eggplant. I would say it's more important to pay attention the look & feel when choosing your eggplant.
You can store it at room temperature for 2 days and refrigerate up until a week.
Is the skin of fairy tale eggplant healthy for you?
YES, YES, YES .... eat the skin!
Nasunin is an anthocyanin in the eggplant skin. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cell membranes from free radical damage.
Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that have many health benefits. They also help give the eggplant its well-known, dark purple color.
The skin of the eggplant is also rich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Eggplants are in the nightshade family. For people with some health conditions, eliminating nightshades from their diet has been shown to be beneficial for them. But, I would keep in mind many of the health benefits before excluding them.
What are the best ways to prepare eggplant?
To decrease some of the bitterness found in other varieties of eggplant, it can be helpful to draw out some of the compounds that contribute to the eggplant's bitter taste when "sweating" the eggplant.
HOW TO SWEAT EGGPLANT: Cut the eggplant into slices or bite-site pieces. Sprinkle salt on both sides and let the salted pieces sit for about 30 minutes. Moisture will be drawn out, just rinse with water and then dab dry. This will leave the eggplant more tender, less bitter, and more palatable. It will also make the pieces less prone to absorbing any oil used when cooking.
TIP: According to the Spruce Eats, to prevent freshly-cut eggplant from going brown when exposed to the air - prepare a bowl of water in advance prior to cutting eggplant. Then add a tablespoonful of milk to it. Add the freshly cut eggplant to this and it will not blacken.
Two of my favorite easy eggplant dishes are:
Baba ghanoush: grill the eggplant in halves for 30 to 40 minutes, remove the flesh and blend with yogurt, tahini, lime juice, garlic and spices to taste. Top with roasted pine nuts and serve with pita bread.
Ratatouille: Combine eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, and tomato, sautéd in a little olive oil, to make a ratatouille
There are so many ways to prepare eggplant - baked, fried, grilled and sauteéd. Get creative!
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Fairy Tale Eggplant Sauté is a vegan dish made extra special with this seasonal eggplant. The sweetness from the eggplant and the combination of ingredients & spices blends well for a tasty dinner!
3.5 oz shitake mushrooms
1 - 2 shallots
1 roasted red pepper (jarred is fine)
1/2 yellow pepper
10 fairy tale eggplants
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp fermented chile paste **see note
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 13.4 oz container of garbanzo beans (chick peas), strained & rinsed
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper to taste
- Clean, stem & slice the shitake mushrooms
- Peel shallots, chop finely
- Slice the red peppers into slivers
- Dice the yellow pepper
- Rinse the eggplants under running water. Dry, trim the top end (with the greens) and slice each lengthwise.
- Mix all the wet ingredients together in a measuring cup and set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil to a non stick pan. Cook shitake mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add shallots and cook until lightly browned.
- Remove mushrooms & onions from pan and set aside.
- Add remaining (2 tbsp) oil to pan, and place eggplant in pan cut side down.
- Cook until slightly tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add in yellow peppers & garlic and cook another 2 -3 minute before adding mushrooms and onions back to pan.
- Add wet ingredients and stir gently.
- Add in chick peas and cook until all ingredients are blended & heated thoroughly. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Top with chopped cilantro & serve!
*For a little extra kick add crushed red chili pepper flakes
**I use "Mother In Laws" Gochujang Fermented Chili Paste
***If fairy tale eggplant isn't available, substitute with a different variety of eggplant and cut into cubes
Keywords: fairy tale eggplant, vegan, seasonal