Hint 1. When selecting, take the time to look at the blossom end. If you can find them, choose the blossom ends that are more like small circles as opposed to slit or line shaped. The reason is that the slitor line shaped marks indicate that it is a female fruit. That means more and larger seeds inside the fruit which in mature eggplant results in a more coarse flesh whicheven once cooked, some find unpleasant.More seeds also predicts there will be more bitterness to deal with. The bitterness comes from a coating around thefertilized seeds which, I think may help insure that fertilized fruit do not get eaten by deer, rabbits, etc. as readily so theplant can sprout the following Spring.Male fruit definitely are less bitter and the seeds are both fewer in number and visibly smaller.
Hint 2. When selecting eggplant, choose those which are more mature over those that are not completely ripe. This means you need to check the stem end to make sure that it looks like the plant was starting the process of disengaging the mature fruit. Immature eggplant does not cook up to become buttery smooth.
Recipe 1. Arab Eggplant (Israel)
Not a true Kosher recipe due to the bacon. May substitute Turkey bacon.
6 slices bacon fried until crisp. Reserve 1-2 Tbs. bacon grease then broken into pieces.
1 medium onion chopped medium to coarsely, not minced.
2-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 eggplant, skin on, cubed, ½ inch
1 medium can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste.
1-2 Tbs. olive oil - Can use more depending many factors
1 tomato paste can of water
Salt, pepper and oregano to taste
Fry bacon. Set aside.
Quick sauté onion in the reserved bacon grease until no longer opaque, but not all the way to limp. Add in garlic during last minute or two of sautéing. Set aside.
Add in olive oil to the bacon grease and when heated to medium high temperature, quick sauté the eggplant cubes until they begin to get golden.
Pour eggplant, onions and garlic and one-half the bacon crumbled, into your casserole dish.
Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, water and seasonings and stir to mix completely.
Crumble the reserved bacon over the top.
You may drizzle some extra olive oil over the top, especially if cooking longer than a couple of hours.
Baking time and temperature vary depending if you are eating it tonight or tomorrow night.
350 degrees 1-2 hours.
325 degrees 4 hours
300 degrees 6 hours or all day
250-275 degrees Overnight
If cooking more than an hour, cover after the first hour.
The longer it bakes, the better it becomes.
Recipe 2. Eggplant Salad (Turkey)
Very important to use male fruit only if you possibly can.
1-2 heads of garlic roasted whole in olive oil and cooled
1 Italian or 4 Turkish or 3-5 Japanese eggplants, depends on sizes of the fruit
Grated onion (how much depends on how much you are preparing) or Onion juice. -
Use only enough to give a hint of onion flavor to the mixture
Salt, pepper, oregano to taste.
Aleppo Chili pepper flakes or Cayenne or Paprika (any type) and Sumac flakes (optional)
Dash of liquid smoke if baking in the oven.
Wash eggplant, dry and make small slits in skin all over.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake on cookie sheet for about 1 hour until very, very soft and mushy.
Light charcoal in your barbecue grill. When ash forms to the point where it is ready to cook steak, put the eggplant directly on the grill and grill, turning occasionally until fruit is very, very soft and mushy and charred black on the outside. May cook the garlic alongside the eggplant in either the oven or on the grill.
When done and cool enough to handle, scoop out eggplant flesh into bowl. Using a fork, mash thoroughly or process a few seconds in a food processor. Squeeze garlic flesh into bowl, add in all other ingredients to taste and mix thoroughly.
If you baked in the oven, add a couple of drops of liquid smoke. If barbecued, the smoke flavor comes off the skin while your scooping it out. You’re aiming for just a hint of the smoke flavor.
Cover bowl and store in refrigerator at least overnight or 24 hours.
When serving, put about ¼ to 1/3 cup eggplant onto small plate. Sprinkle with more lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil to taste. Then sprinkle with Pepper flakes or Paprika and if you can find it, the Sumac. Serve using fresh soft crusted bread or pita as a scoop.
Recipe 3. Eggplant Marinara Sauce (Italian)
Good place to use female fruit.
At the same time you are sautéing the onions for your spaghetti sauce, add in the eggplant cubes and cook over medium high heat till golden brown but not crusty and onions are translucent. Add into your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe at the usual time you would add the onions. Simmer at least one hour until eggplant is very soft and thoroughly cooked.
Serve as usual over noodles. It is wonderful the next day as baked spaghetti. Goes well with any spaghetti sauce recipe except I do not like it with ground meat in the sauce. It can be used it as a meat substitute like Portobello mushrooms.
If using a store bought spaghetti sauce, just do the sauté step and add directly to the sauce, but cook at least ½ hour.
As a special note: I also will switch out the eggplant with a 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach. This also can be made either meatless or with browned hamburger (Bolognese Sauce) but doesn’t go well with spicy sausage. No need to cook or defrost the spinach. Just place the frozen block on top of the sauce as soon as you start to simmer the sauce down. Cooking time for this sauce can go down to 20 minutes or just until the spinach is cooked. Adding in1/2 to 1 tsp of sugar to the sauce at the end of cooking helps to bring the flavors together but this is optional. This is a wonderful way to get kids to eat spinach.