Farmer’s Market Friday – Eggplant

It’s Friday again, and I will be getting back to the market first thing in the morning. Vacation really threw me off of my routine and it’s amazing how much I missed seeing all my favorite farm stands.

I am on a mission to not only broaden the culinary horizons of my family, but also maybe broaden my own. My project this week is more eggplant. I received eggplant in the haul I got from the produce auction, and used it as the noodle replacement in my lasagna. I also recently made a few dips out of eggplant. But that’s a pretty narrow use of a vegetable that is one of the freshest and most available at my market right now.

On a side note, is the plural of eggplant still eggplant? Or is it eggplants? This is too much for my brain to consider on a Friday….

It’s not that I don’t like eggplant, I just don’t really think about it much when I’m out. I’m usually on the hunt for my other favorites and the poor eggplant gets overlooked… again. To me, eggplant doesn’t really have a strong flavor…it can be kind of bland, which may be why I tend to pass right by. Poor, lonely, neglected eggplant. Well this week, I am going to change that! I am going to buy and cook more eggplant. Because every veggie deserves a little love.

To start things off for you, here’s how I prepare eggplant to be the base of some really delicious dips:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry whole eggplant. For the dips, I just use the regular garden-variety globe eggplant with the deep purple skin. If your eggplant are really large, cut them in half and brush the cut sides with olive oil. Medium to small eggplant should be roasted whole. Prick the skin several times with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife and place the eggplant onto a foil lined sheet pan. Cut eggplant should be roasted cut side down. Place in the hot oven until the eggplant gets completely soft and the skin starts to darken and blister. The skin will actually dry out and get rather like paper, and will crack when you tap it. You want that eggplant to roast well because that charbroiled flavor really is essential to a successful dip. Don’t turn your eggplant to charcoal though… nothing will make THAT taste good! Remove the pan from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

You can either remove the skin with your fingers, or use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a colander. If your eggplant has any large pockets of dark seeds, remove those as well since they will be bitter. Salt the eggplant and toss lightly, then let the eggplant drain for an hour. This removes any remaining liquid, which also can be bitter. Once the hour is up, if your eggplant still seems a little wet, you can press it gently with a spatula to help the process.

That’s it! The roasted, drained eggplant can now be combined with any sort of flavoring you prefer. For one batch of dip, I put the eggplant, roasted red peppers (that I had made myself and packed in olive oil), and roasted red onions in the bowl of a food processor and processed until smooth. I added the oil from the red pepper jar while processing to help make it really silky. Another batch got eggplant, roasted garlic cloves, roasted onion, fresh thyme, and a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt. Delicious with veggie sticks, crackers, or pita bread. Even my kids loved it!

So fire up that oven and show your eggplant a little love this weekend.


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