Eggplants are perishable, so use them within 2 or 3 days of purchase. Under ideal storage, 40-45 degrees F with high humidity (85%) they will keep only about one week.
When buying eggplant, choose fruit that have a nice glossy shine, and avoid ones with dull color – these will be overripe and bitter.
Eggplant is a good source of Vitamins A, C and B complex, and potassium.
Eggplant contains about 30 calories per cup.
SELECTION – Look for a symmetrical eggplant with smooth, uniformly colored skin. Tan patches, scars, or bruises indicate decay. Also avoid eggplants with wrinkled or flabby-looking skin. Oversized purple eggplants, usually over 6 inches in diameter, may be tough and bitter.
When you press gently on an eggplant, the finger mark will disappear quickly if the eggplant is fresh. Eggplant should feel heavy; one that feels light for its size may not have a good flavor. The stem and cap should be bright green.
STORAGE – Both cold and warm temperatures can damage eggplant. It is best to store eggplant uncut and unwashed in a plastic bag in the cooler section of the refrigerator. Do not force the eggplant into the crisper if it is too big, as this will bruise the vegetable. Eggplant may be blanched or steamed then frozen for up to 6 months.
PREPARATION – Wash the eggplant just before using it, and cut off the cap and stem. Use a stainless steel knife because carbon blades will discolor the eggplant. Eggplant should not be eaten raw. Eggplant may be cooked with or without its skin. However, large eggplant and most white varieties have thick, tough skin and should be peeled prior to cooking with a vegetable peeler.
Unlike many vegetables, eggplant is not harmed by long cooking. An undercooked eggplant can have a chewy texture; but overcooked eggplant is just very soft. Do not cook in an aluminum pot because the eggplant will become discolored.
Spices that enhance its flavor include allspice, basil, bay leaves, garlic, chili powder, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley. Eggplant is most often paired with tomatoes or onions.
BAKING: To bake a whole eggplant, pierce the skin with a fork several times, and cook it at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Baking whole eggplants produces a soft flesh that is easy to mash or puree.
BROILING: Cut the eggplant into thick lengthwise slices, and score them lightly with a sharp knife. Place the slices on a broiler pan or grill; brush them lightly with oil. Broil about 5 inches from the heat, and turn slices when they begin to brown. Eggplant should be cooked for approximately 5 minutes per side.
Eggplant may also be MICROWAVED whole, cubed, or sliced. Cooking times vary from 6 to 8 minutes for a whole eggplant to 3 or 4 minutes for a pound of cubed eggplant.
STEWED EGGPLANT is called ratatouille. For this dish, eggplant may be stewed alone, or with other vegetables. Simmer, covered with a liquid such as tomato juice, until the eggplant is tender. The cooking time is usually 20 to 25 minutes.