The summer is going to dog gone fast! Pickle season and fresh green beans are just about behind us and it’s time to start thinking about salsa, homemade ketchup and V-8 juice.
Last week I ‘think’ I mentioned an article this week that would give you not only a good recipe, but information galore! I hardly know where to begin when it comes to Eggplant. First, it’s one of my favorite foods and second most restaurants prepare it fried and that’s where the creativity ceases.
Let me share with you some knowledge I have gained over the years and also just recently that will aid you in selecting the best eggplant. Years ago I was told that I should‘always’ soak my sliced eggplant in salt water about 30 minutes before cooking. Others told me to just salt it and leave it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse, batter and prepare. Everyone indicated you just never knew when you would get a bitter eggplant; so instead of leaving it to guess always soak first. I used this philosophy for many years and then…….
I started studying the vegetable species. There are both male and female eggplants. At the base of the vegetable you see its bottom or what is commonly referred to as the belly button. Cute, huh? Anyway if the base is circular/round it is a male eggplant. If the bottom is more like a slit or you just can’t decide, it’s most likely a female plant. The female plant carries a large amount of seeds (think reproduction here) and the male species does not. When you eat an eggplant that has sort of an off taste, perhaps a bit wangy, it was probably a female. The female eggplant is also contoured more rounded versus the typical eggplant shape. Which plant do you pick at the market or grocery store? The male because it has less seeds and the flavor will be better! Also try to pick the smaller eggplant for the best outcome.
To peel or not to peel? Personal choice is what I always say. I like to leave it on just to help hold the form during the cooking process if I’m frying or baking. Now let’s talk frying an eggplant. I agree it is delicious fried, however an eggplant is like a sponge when it comes to the frying skillet. Eggplants absorb a huge amount of oil. Lately I’ve started baking mine in the oven and I find I enjoy it much better.
I wrote this eggplant dish after dining in a wonderful Italian restaurant in Branson, Missouri many years ago. Don’t you know after I moved to Branson West, it closed!! This recipe can be used as an appetizer for two or as a main entrée.
Bring in a side dish of herb buttered pasta and a salad and it makes a complete meal. The ease of preparing is pretty simple, just be sure to pick the right species when you’re at the market.
Next week I’m bringing an old time family favorite as my feature dish. In fact I’m making it this week. One thing that helps me a great deal is to plan my meals weekly. Leave room for last minute changes as it always seems to happen.
This past week I did a radio interview and my family told me I did a nice job. Except when they asked me what makes a great recipe? Well, I did beat around the bush on this one. My opinion isn’t going to be the right one for many. But here it is anyway. A great recipe is one that becomes your signature dish, something you use repetitively. It will contain elements that are not ‘covered’ by other ingredients which mask their flavors. Though it could contain cheese it doesn’t allow the cheese to rule the recipe. It will contain some ingredients and presentation that are familiar to those dining at your table. To me this means they can make an emotional/mental connection. However it will also contain a more specific ingredient that will make it sit up and ‘sing’. OK, I hope I don’t get asked that question in the near future. It’s just not an easy one for me to put into words, as you can tell.
My new book is coming along. I expect it to be wrapped by the close of August. I will certainly breathe a sigh of relief when it heads to press! Until next week, Simply yours, The Covered Dish. www.thecovereddish.com
Italian Aubergine (Eggplant)
1 medium eggplant
1 jar chunky spaghetti sauce
Italian bread crumbs
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Basil, fresh or dried
I’m not giving exact amount because I have no idea how much you want to make.
Let’s settle on 1 eggplant or at least 4-5 slices when you cut the vegetable lengthwise. Remove the skin if desired. Try to select a male eggplant (see above column) and if you’re not sure then soak the slices in salted water for about 30 minutes. Rinse and pat the slices dry. Spray the baking dish and lay in eggplant with a light covering of Italian bread crumbs. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper, pouring the spaghetti sauce over the top. Cover with freshly shredded parmesan cheese, then top with thinly sliced romas and additional cheese. If you use fresh basil be sure to put it under the cheese before baking. Bake at 350 degrees until it’s hot and bubbly. Serves 4.