What is large, purple, and has a round bottom? No, it’s not Grimace, the Ronald McDonald character, or Barney the dinosaur. It’s an eggplant or melazana in Italian.
There are many different varieties of eggplant. Some are small ivory-white and plump; they may be pink or purple and flecked with white irregular stripes. In Asia, they are tubular and usually straight or slightly curved. In Thailand, the eggplants are not much bigger than peas. Colors range from black, to purple to orange, green and white. They have a tender, slightly sweet flesh.
The majority of eggplants found in most grocery stores are dark purple or almost black and can be long and slim or fat. All have a similar bland yet smoky flavor and the flesh is spongy to the touch when raw, but soft after cooking. When purchasing, eggplants should feel heavy and quite firm to the touch, and have a glossy, unblemished skin. They will keep well in the salad drawer of the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (Source: The World Encyclopedia of Cooking Ingredients).
When cooking eggplant it is best to “salt” them first. Cut eggplant into ½ inch slices and sprinkle a generous amount of salt and allow to stand for one hour. This will out draw the excess moisture. Rinse well patting with paper towel to dry. Eggplants will absorb large amounts of oil when cooking and removing the excess moisture helps to reduce this.
You may get tired of me writing things like, “before moving to Sicily I had never eaten _____ or before moving to Sicily I rarely ate _____, or before moving to Sicily I didn’t know what ______ was”. I have been exposed to many different foods the past two years so I apologize if it gets annoying. Forgive me for saying again, but eggplant is another food that I didn’t eat very often before moving to Sicily. Eggplant is very popular in Italy. Some of the most popular eggplant dishes are Pasta al a Norma (which is spaghetti with red sauce, fried eggplant and grated salty ricotta cheese), Eggplant Caponata, (my favorite Italian antipasta), and Eggplant Parmigiana. Eggplant is also delicious simply sautéed or fried and served as a side dish or even as a topping for sandwiches. You cannot live in Sicily without at least trying eggplant.
I typically fry eggplant when serving as a side dish. It is really tasty, but very fattening. So when I came across this recipe for baked eggplant I thought I would give it a try. Oh my goodness was it good! No lie; it was even better than fried. If you like eggplant you have to try this guiltless recipe!
- fat free mayo (can substitute olive oil if desired) - 1/2 cup
- minced fresh onion - 1 tbsp
- sliced unpeeled eggplant (cut into 1/2 inch slices) - 1 large
- dry breadcrumbs - 1 cup
- grated Parmesan cheese - 1 cup
- dried Italian seasoning - 1 1/2 tsp
- cooking spray -
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine mayonnaise and onion; spread evenly over both sides of eggplant slices.
- Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl; dredge eggplant in breadcrumb mixture.
- Place sliced eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.
- Turn eggplant over; bake 12 minutes or until golden.