Monday, July 27, 2009

Aubergine, berenjena, melanzane

An eggplant by any other name can be just as intimidating.

The first time I cooked one was for a sublime dish named moussaka. I had a craving for it, unshelved all the cookbooks, found a recipe that looked great, and dove in. By the time I had finished frying one eggplant it had completely absorbed two cups of olive oil. I didn't attempt eggplant for years after that. (The secret is raising the heat, of course, but I didn't know that then.)

Now I know just a bit more, even a couple of recipes that don't require frying (but ah, how delicious fried eggplant is!) and here are a few.

1) The most obvious: grilled eggplant. Slice a large, deep purple eggplant lengthwise 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. You may find recipes that require you to sprinkle salt on the slices, set in a colander for an hour, then wipe off the moisture and salt. All I can say to that it, what a pain in the behind!!! I've done it and not done it and I honestly can not tell the difference. Grill. 4-8 minutes per side depending on your heat and your patience. I like to sprinkle garlic salt and drizzle olive oil. Serve with roasted peppers.

2) Doesn't "melenzane a la vaporetta" sound better than "steamed eggplant"? The first name is exotic, the second conjures steam tables in a dark, unventilated cafeteria.
Cube one large eggplant. (Don't like the peel? Peel it before you cube it. I give you permission.) Saute half an onion in a skillet until soft. Add minced garlic. Add the eggplant, and stir until covered with oil, add a third of a cup of white wine, one cup or more diced or canned tomatoes, cover and simmer until soft. Salt to taste, a sprinkling of parsley for color. I like this aside a serving of brown rice. It makes you feel virtuous.

3) Baba ganoush: Steam two large eggplants until tender. I put them in my pasta pot, set them on the insert, and cook over bubbling water. Takes 30-40 minutes to cook through, check by prodding with a fork. Slit the cooked eggplants open, scoop out the flesh, chop coarsely. In a skillet slick with olive oil, saute garlic. Add the chopped eggplant, cook out a bit of the moisture. Add half a cup of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, salt to taste, and a dribble or two of sesame oil to deepen the flavor. Delicious as a side dish or dip.

Got your own favorite eggplant dish?


  1. Oh, do I love baba ganoush. I've never been brave enough but maybe now I'll try it.

  2. MELANZANE!!!!!!!!!!!! SO GOOD!
    I like (and now sorry for my English, I'm lazy and I can't find the right word on the dictionary!) melanzane burned on the fire and then you slice up them, and you put them in the oil and garlic. UHMMMMM!
    Pasta e melanzane is perfect, but the most tasty and paradisiac receipt with melanzane I think is Melanzane alla parmigiana (dear friends if you want the receipt... well Internet is there for you! ahahahah)
    Ciao! Italo.

  3. Bec--Enjoy yourself in Oregon!
    Thanks Italo--I think when you say burned it's the same as grilled, and I LOVE alla parmigiana, but it's kinda complicated--maybe a future post--

  4. Thanks for this--I've drizzled several cups of oil into the pan when trying to fry eggplant. Now I know how to avoid that in the future.

    Hi Italo!

  5. I have white eggplants in my garden and they are so tender and delicious! I followed Mark Bittman's advice last weekend and put two whole melanzane on the grill. I went out to check them and as soon as my tongs touched one it POPPED! and disintegrated on me. ;-)

    I managed to scoop it and its pal onto a plate, dice up the innards and make it into a salad with white beans, nuts and tzatziki (Greek cucumber) sauce. It was delicious!

    I made eggplant parmigiana a couple weeks ago, but I neglected to peel the skin and it was a bit tough. I liked it but the kids wouldn't eat it.

    Des, I have also done the salt-and-wait technique. My husband's Italian aunt says it's not necessary unless the melanzane is very tough and old.

  6. P--Great--
    Karen: Aha! Now my previous garden envy is confirmed--and thanks for the salt info--

  7. Oregon was great - found some eggplant!