The Misunderstood Fruit – Eggplant

Yes, eggplant is a fruit. It’s considered a cousin to the apple. In fact, in Italian, melanzana was interpreted as mela insana ‘crazy apple’, and that translates into English as mad apple. In 13th century Italian traditional folklore, the eggplant was believed to cause insanity. And yet it is a food that is used a lot in Italian cuisine. No comments here on crazy Italians. 

People are still afraid of this fruit, some steer clear of it altogether. This robust vegetable actually has a mild earthy flavor. I guess it can be an acquired taste, but if cooked properly, is delicious. 

A few notes from Wikipedia: The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, or even an astringent quality, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed. Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining the sliced fruit (a process known as “degorging”) to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness of the earlier cultivars. Some modern varieties—including large purple varieties commonly imported into western Europe—do not need this treatment.

Eggplants from our summer garden.

There is a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors. Varieties span from white to purple in color and round to oblong in shape. Look for firm, glossy and blemish-free skin when buying eggplants. It should feel heavy for its size.

If you are not a fan of eggplant, I encourage you to try it sometime. 

 

 

Serves 4

Eggplant Patties

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cup eggplant, cubed
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups crusty day-old bread in small cubes
  • 2/3 cups pecorino cheese grated
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose flour for dusting

Instructions

  1. Cook eggplant to soften- there are several ways you can choose to do this. Drizzle with salt and olive oil and bake in 400 degree oven until cooked. OR cook in a pan of salted water until soft, then drain.
  2. Combine cooked eggplant with basil, garlic, onion, bread, grated cheese and eggs.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix gently to moisten all ingredients.
  5. Shape mixture into smallish balls - flour your hands will help when making balls. Flatten into patties. Dust with flour.
  6. Heat oil in a skillet. Add eggplant patties in batches and cook over medium heat until golden done.
  7. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  8. Serve hot or cold with fresh tomato sauce on the side.

Notes

You can substitute zucchini for eggplant.

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Nutrition

Calories: 204 cal
Carbohydrates: 21 g
Fat: 8 g
Sodium: 369 g
Cholesterol: 113 g
Protein: 13 g
Fiber: 5 g

4 thoughts on “The Misunderstood Fruit – Eggplant”

  1. Pingback: Eggplant Part Deux – Risotto | Christina's Cucina Blog

  2. I grew eggplant last summer (2020), because I couldn't find any zucchini nor cucumber plants (during our first covid summer). I was so confused about soaking and draining and cooking it in salt water that I gave up. This year I've been given some from a food pantry, I'm game to try again. But don't know what I'm doing. The patties sound really good, I'll try merely boiling it with a little salt, maybe I don't have to worry about how much salt? Just a small dash, is this right?
    1. Priscilla, I can understand why you are confused. There are multiple methods to process and cook eggplant, and believe me, I've tried many! If the eggplant is fresh from the garden and not "old" looking or wrinkled, you don't have to salt and drain to get rid of the bitterness. Roasting in the oven drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt produced a perfectly cooked eggplant to use as a side dish, with pasta sauce, or made into something like these patties. To answer your questions - a small dash of salt should be sufficient in most recipes. Enjoy!

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