Here in Southern Wisconsin, eggplant has enjoyed a great season but it is nearly at an end. Get to the farmers market before it is all over–you still have time –and buy some beautiful, large American or Italian varieties. Get a bunch—think 2 large eggplants per dish. Roast and freeze them now and for the rest of the year, you’ll be able to whip up some amazing tasting dishes lickety split using locally grown eggplants. Baba ganoush is one of my favorite roasted eggplant dishes but so many world cuisines use this beautiful, meaty, veggie in so many creative ways. (Skip to the end for some inspiration and motivation to get you to the market.)
About: Eggplants come in many shapes and sizes, with the exception of Hmong Red and African varieties bred to be bitter, they all have a similar mild taste and meaty texture. While any variety can be roasted, the fleshier Italian and American varieties work best.
How to Roast Eggplants: Charring the skin of the eggplant imparts a rich, smoky flavor to the flesh—an essential flavor to any roasted eggplant dish. Eggplants can be roasted in a 400° F oven, but it takes an hour or more if the eggplant is large. Also, the skin doesn’t blister enough to create a strong smoky flavor. Try one of the following methods instead:
- Place whole eggplant on a hot grill.
- Char each side of the eggplant for about 8 minutes; turn with metal tongs—about 30 minutes altogether.
- Once the eggplant is charred evenly, place in a bowl and cover with a plate or a non-reactive pot with a lid to steam. Allow the eggplant to steam and cool—at least 15 minutes.
- The eggplant should be completely caved in on itself and the flesh soft. Peal off the charred skin. If there are a lot of seeds, remove some. If the flesh does not seem to be completely tender, finish cooking in the microwave. Discard the liquid; it may be bitter.
Oven Broiler Method: Follow the steps above but #1. Instead, place eggplant on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler.
Stove Top Method: Follow the steps above but #1. Instead place eggplant directly on the grate of the stove top and turn gas to high. This only works with gas stoves.
Storing in the Refrigerator: Roasted eggplants will keep for 3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Storing in the Freezer: Eggplant cannot be canned or dehydrated. You could peel, blanch, and freeze fresh eggplant, but why bother as it looses its texture and has a bland flavor. Instead preserve it by storing roasted eggplant in sealed freezer bags; the difference between fresh and frozen roasted eggplant is indistinguishable. NOTE: 2 lbs. fresh eggplant yields about 1 cup roasted.
- Place 2 large, roasted and peeled eggplants in a freezer bag. (about 1 cup)
- Press flat removing all air.
- Label and date.
- Place stacked bags in the freezer. They will keep for a year or more.
Cooking Methods: Roasted eggplant is served mashed—from roughly chopped with a lot of text to a fine puree. Try pairing it with various seasoning and spices for a great dip, spread, or sauce. Add some stock and cream and you have a soup.
Add 1 cup roasted eggplant with the following seasonings:
- Japanese: 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon mirin; garnish with 1 stalk green onion finely chopped
- Korean: do the same as Japanese and add one small clove garlic mashed to paste and 2 teaspoon Korean chili pepper or 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of cayenne
- Mediterranean: one small clove garlic mashed to paste, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 Tablespoon chopped mint or cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Greek: juice of half a lemon, one small clove garlic mashed to paste, 1 Tablespoon mince oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
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