Learning to Love Eggplant: How to Pick 'Em, Cook 'Em, and Eat 'Em

Eggplant is a love it or hate it kind of a vegetable. Mention it in conversation and you'll either get an ode to the purple globe or stony silence.

If you're in the "stony silence" camp, we'd like to think that you just haven't found the right recipe yet! Let us try and convince you...Eggplant 101:

First, it's important to know that there are other eggplant varieties beyond those bloated, rubbery supermarket balloons. Check out Kathryn's post on eggplants at the farmer's market for a look at other kinds.

Pick eggplants with a taut, slightly resistant skin. Avoid spongy or rock hard eggplants.

In general, the smaller the eggplant, the sweeter it will be.

Eggplant Baby Steps:

To prepare your eggplant, slice off the very top and the very bottom. You can peel off the skin if you prefer, but it's entirely edible. Cut eggplant into disks, strips, or cubes.

We take one extra step here and salt our eggplant before cooking it. Salting it and letting sit in a colander for a few minutes helps to drain off some of the bitter juices from inside the eggplant. (Cook's Illustrated actually recommends letting salted eggplant sit for 2-3 hours.) Rinse and pat dry before cooking.

With particularly large eggplants, we like also like to squeeze the slices to get out all the moisture we can by pressing them between paper towels against the counter top.

Three Basic Recipes:

Baba Ghanoush--an eggplant dip similar to hummus
Caponata--an eggplant sauce or spread spiked with tomato and vinegar
Eggplant Wraps with Goat Cheese--a simple, elegant appetizer

And Beyond:

Ratatouille from Epicurious
Eggplant Parmesan from Simply Recipes
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stacks from the Food Network

What's your favorite way to prepare eggplant?

Related: How to Freeze Zucchini

(Images: Kathryn Hill and Elizabeth Passarella for the Kitchn, and Pastanjauhantaa)

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