Welcome to the fifth installment of "WTF, CSA?" Periodically, throughout this CSA season, we'll help you make use of your overflowing CSA baskets. You ask, we answer. That's how this works. Or rather, you shouted, "WTF?" into your CSA box and now we're going to tell why that eggplant looks like that and what to do with it.
Eggplant can be so mysterious. A member of the nightshade family, it is unexpectedly related to the tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplant is unlike any other vegetable, with its meaty texture, thick skin and ability to stand up to a variety of cooking methods.
We got an email from a friend recently, who had no idea that what she'd received in her CSA box were eggplants, because of how different they all looked. Eggplants can come in many different colors and shapes, from the big, purple, Italian bell-shapes we all know, to thin snake-like Japanese eggplant. Eggplants can be purple, white, speckled, yellow and green. You can pickle them, roast them, grill them... look, there are a lot of options and we're getting tired just thinking of them.
To cut down on eggplant fatigue, we've decided to simply share with you the single greatest eggplant recipe of all time. That's right, we said it. This is it. Mollie Katzen's recipe for Tunisian Eggplant is a mediterranean take on eggplant caponata, something we're all pretty familiar with.
But there is something magical in the mathematics of this recipe: it is better than the sum of its parts. Something happens when the tomato paste melts into the red wine vinegar and coats your veggies like a blanket. This recipe is delicious hot, cold, room temperature, in a sandwich, with pita bread, eaten directly from the pot with a fork -- like eggplant itself, the possibilities are endless.
Is this a beautiful, complicated dish? No. But it is simple, perfect and you will figure out exactly how to tweak it to make your tastebuds reach maximum happiness.
Tunisian Eggplant -- From "Still Life With Menu" by Mollie Katzen
(recipe re-printed with author's permission)
Preparation Time: About 40 minutes
Yield: Appetizer for six
Here is a South Mediterranean version of eggplant caponata (the famous Italian eggplant salad) featuring two outstanding guest stars: green olives and marinated artichoke hearts. It is so good it must be served as a course unto itself, accompanied by wedges of pita bread. (If you serve it with anything else, the other dish, no matter how good, might go unnoticed. *Ed Note: That is the TRUTH.)
It keeps beautifully, so go ahead and make it three or four days ahead of time, if that is most convenient for you.
1/4 cup olive oil (or more, as needed)
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 large eggplant (peeling optional), cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup small pitted green olives
1 small jar (6 ounce) marinated artichoke hearts (drained, each piece cut into 2 or 3 smaller pieces)
pinches of dried tarragon, basil and/or oregano (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic and salt, and sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
- Add the eggplant cubes, stir and cover. Cook until the eggplant is very well done (15 to 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add small amounts of additional oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to prevent sticking.
- Stir in tomato paste and vinegar, and heat to the boiling point. Add the olives and remove from heat.
- Stir in the artichoke hearts, then cool to room temperature. Taste to adjust the seasonings, adding the optional herbs, if desired.
- Cover tightly and chill. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Still need more eggplant ideas? Check out the slideshow below.
Sicilian Caponata With Cornmeal Crackers
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/the-piazza-family-sicilia_n_1151666.html" target="_hplink">Sicilian Caponata with Cornmeal Crackers recipe</a></strong> Sicilian food is a marriage of Mediterranean flavors. This caponata is a good example with sauteed peppers, eggplant, onions, capers and olives. Serve with cornmeal crackers for dipping.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-tart_n_1057497.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Tart recipe</a></strong> This unique tart is lined with thin slices of eggplant and topped with a savory egg and cream mixture. Serve it with a side salad for lunch.
Grilled Eggplant And Tomato Stacks
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-eggplant--tomato_n_1062182.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks recipe</a></strong> This reinterpretation of the classic Italian Caprese salad includes grilled eggplant and pesto with the tomato, mozzarella and basil. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finishes it off.
Fusilli With Roasted Eggplant And Goat Cheese
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/fusilli-with-roasted-eggp_n_1058401.html" target="_hplink">Fusilli with Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese recipe</a></strong> This simple dish is packed with flavor. Tender roasted eggplant, pine nuts, parsley and pungent goat cheese combine with pasta for one pleasing dinner.
Ultimate Veggie Burger
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/the-ulitmate-veggie-burge_n_1057676.html" target="_hplink">Ultimate Veggie Burger recipe</a></strong> Roast bell peppers, mushrooms and eggplant combine to create this veggie burger served on a Portuguese roll. Top the vegetables with oozy brie.
Grilled Eggplant Cannelloni
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-eggplant-cannello_n_1059175.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Eggplant Cannelloni recipe</a></strong> Instead of pasta this recipe uses grilled slices of eggplant to roll up a savory tomato jam. Mustard seeds add a unique savory flavor to the filling.
Indian-Spice Eggplant And Cauliflower Stew
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/indian-spiced-eggplant--_n_1061584.html" target="_hplink">Indian-Spiced Eggplant and Cauliflower Stew recipe</a></strong> This Indian-spiced curry is great on its own or served over rice. The combination of eggplant, tomato, cauliflower and chickpeas is very flavorful.
Eggplant Parmesan Pizza
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-parmesan-pizza_n_1061764.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Parmesan Pizza recipe</a></strong> This recipe reimagines the classic eggplant parm as a pizza. Top the pizza with your favorite store-bought marinara, grilled eggplant, basil and cheese.
Eggplant Rolls With Red Bell Peppers And Hummus
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-rolls-with-red-b_n_1057307.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Rolls with Red Bell Peppers and Hummus recipe</a></strong> These eggplant rolls make an ideal appetizer as part of an Italian antipasti platter. Each roasted slice is rolled up with hummus, red pepper and alfalfa.
Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-pomodoro-pasta_n_1062002.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta recipe</a></strong> This is the perfect pasta dish for the summer. It features sauteed eggplant and tomato with olive and capers for some tanginess.
Grilled Eggplant And Portobello Sandwich
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-eggplant--portob_n_1062003.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Eggplant and Portobello Sandwich recipe</a></strong> Grilled eggplant, fresh tomato and arugula make a terrific flavor match in this grilled sandwich, which makes for a good vegetarian offering at your next cookout.
Grilled Eggplant Lasagna
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-eggplant-lasagna_n_1056939.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Eggplant Lasagne recipe</a></strong> You won't miss the meat in this savory eggplant lasagna, which is layered with pasta, grilled eggplant slices and a homemade tomato sauce that can be made in advance.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-relish_n_1058376.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Relish recipe</a></strong> This simple sauteed eggplant relish makes a great condiment or side dish. It's full of flavors of the garden with tomato and basil. Fennel seeds add a unique savory flavor.
Greek Lamb Kebob, Grilled Eggplant And Hummus On Crusty Bread Sticks
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/greek-lamb-kebob-grilled_n_1057670.html" target="_hplink">Greek Lamb Kebob, Grilled Eggplant and Hummus on Crusty Bread Sticks recipe</a></strong> This Middle Eastern feast combines charred eggplant, lamb kebob, hummus and chickpeas served with crusty breadsticks. To save on time, buy marinated lamb kebobs.
Grilled Eggplant Salad With Jerusalem Flavors
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-eggplant-salad-wi_n_1057994.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Eggplant Salad with Jerusalem Flavors recipe</a></strong> This beautiful salad is a composed plate of grilled tomato sauce, tahini, diced grilled eggplant, yogurt and walnuts. Serve it with pita for dipping.
Open-Faced Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/open-faced-grilled-eggpla_n_1373858.html" target="_hplink">Open-Faced Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches recipe</a></strong> Grilled onion, grilled eggplant and fresh tomato make up the topping for these open-faced sandwiches. Creamy celery root sauce adds a nice flavor and texture.
Baked Potato With Ratatouille
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/healthy-baked-potato-with_n_1057419.html" target="_hplink">Baked Potato with Ratatouille recipe</a></strong> Eggplant is a classic ingredient in ratatouille, the famous Provencal vegetable stew. Here it serves as a delicious topping on a baked potato.
Pot-Roasted Eggplant With Tomatoes And Cumin
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/pot-roasted-eggplant-with_n_1058626.html" target="_hplink">Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Cumin recipe</a></strong> This delicious dip is also versatile as a sandwich spread. The eggplant is cooked in a casserole and then combined with tomatoes and earthy cumin.
Hot Fast-Roast Chicken And Eggplant On Greens
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/hot-fast-roast-chicken-an_n_1057546.html" target="_hplink">Hot Fast-Roast Chicken and Eggplant on Greens recipe</a></strong> Spatchcocked chicken roasts atop a layer of sliced eggplant in this recipe. Serve it while it's still hot over arugula so it wilts slightly.
Lamb And Eggplant Ragu
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lamb--eggplant-ragu_n_1049558.html" target="_hplink">Lamb and Eggplant Ragu recipe</a></strong> Lamb and eggplant are a popular combination throughout the Mediterranean. Here they're matched in a saucy ragu that goes well over pasta. Top with crumbled feta and pine nuts.
Grilled Peppers, Eggplant And Zucchini With Lemon-Harissa Dressing
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-peppers-eggplant_n_1060961.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Peppers, Eggplant and Zucchini with Lemon-Harissa Dressing recipe</a></strong> A spicy and tangy lemon-harissa dressing coats this medley of grilled vegetables, which includes peppers, eggplant and zucchini.
Provencal Summer Vegetables
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/provenal-summer-vegetabl_n_1062208.html" target="_hplink">Provencal Summer Vegetables recipe</a></strong> This classic casserole is known as a tian in France. It layers sauteed leeks (or onions), tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini and tops it with cheese. Serve it as a side dish.
Roasted Eggplant Dip
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/roasted-eggplant-dip_n_1059875.html" target="_hplink">Roasted Eggplant Dip recipe</a></strong> Instead of buying baba ganoush from the store, make your own easily at home. It starts with roasting the eggplant, mashing it and then adding in Middle Eastern flavors like tahini.
Macaroni Alla Norma
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/macaroni-alla-norma_n_1057110.html" target="_hplink">Macaroni alla Norma recipe</a></strong> This classic Italian sauce features eggplant and tomato. Serve it over your favorite pasta.
Roasted Vegetable, Tofu And Pesto Panini
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/roasted-vegetable-tofu-a_n_1057197.html" target="_hplink">Roasted Vegetable, Tofu and Pesto Panini recipe</a></strong> This pressed sandwich features roasted eggplant, zucchini and peppers along with tofu. Spread the bread with pesto for additional flavor, and, if you like, include provolone cheese.
Indian-Spiced Stuffed Eggplant
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/indian-spiced-stuffed-egg_n_1061913.html" target="_hplink">Indian-Spiced Stuffed Eggplant recipe</a></strong> A blend of classic Indian spices flavor this recipe of stuffed eggplant. Rice and ground bison make up the filling, but feel free to use ground beef, pork or turkey.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-parm_n_1059519.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Parm recipe</a></strong> This is the classic eggplant parmesan with fried eggplant layered with tomato sauce and cheese. Enjoy it just as it is or in a sub sandwich.
WATCH: Choosing The Right Eggplant
Chef Radha Tabak shows how to select the right eggplant.