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


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)

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and vinegar, and heat to the boiling point. Add the olives and remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the artichoke hearts, then cool to room temperature. Taste to adjust the seasonings, adding the optional herbs, if desired.
  5. Cover tightly and chill. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Still need more eggplant ideas? Check out the slideshow below.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Eggplant Parmesan

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-parm_n_1059519.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Parm recipe</a></strong>

  • Zucchini & Aubergine Tart

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://mimithorisson.com/2013/05/02/spring-follies/" target="_blank">Zucchini & Aubergine Tart recipe from Manger</a></strong>

  • 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>

  • Sichuan Eggplant

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/sichuan_eggplant/" target="_blank">Sichuan Eggplant recipe from Simply Recipes</a></strong>

  • 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>

  • Baingan Bhaja

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/baingan-fry-baingan-bhaja-eggplant-fries/" target="_blank">Baingan Bhaja recipe from Veg Recipes of India</a></strong> These Indian, marinated and fried eggplant slices are on our wish list.

  • 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>

  • Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini Salad With Feta, Chickpeas & Mint

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.cookincanuck.com/2013/05/grilled-eggplant-zucchini-salad-recipe-with-feta-chickpeas-mint/" target="_blank">Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini Salad with Feta, Chickpeas & Mint recipe from Cookin' Canuck</a></strong>

  • Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://bevcooks.com/2011/08/roasted-eggplant-bruschetta/" target="_blank">Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta recipe from Bev Cooks</a></strong>

  • Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce

    <strong>Get <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/18519-yotam-ottolenghi-s-sweet-corn-polenta-with-eggplant-sauce" target="_blank">Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Criss-Cross Pan-Fried Eggplant

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/4199-criss-cross-pan-fried-eggplant" target="_blank">Criss-Cross Pan-Fried Eggplant recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Eggplant Dip With Yogurt (Borani-e Bademjan)

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/18763-eggplant-dip-with-yogurt-borani-e-bademjan" target="_blank">Eggplant Dip with Yogurt (Borani-e Bademjan) recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Mollie Katzen's Tunisian Eggplant

    <strong>Get <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/eggplant-recipe_n_1757772.html" target="_blank">Mollie Katzen's Tunisian Eggplant</a> recipe</strong> It's not the prettiest dish in the world, but it's probably one of the single most delicious.

  • Eggplant Parmesan

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/431-eggplant-parmesan" target="_blank">Eggplant Parmesan recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Fried Eggplant Balls With Melted Mozzarella Centers

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.cookincanuck.com/2009/08/fried-eggplant-balls-with-melted/" target="_blank">Fried Eggplant Balls with Melted Mozzarella Centers from Cookin' Canuck</a></strong>

  • Eggplant Tart

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-tart_n_1057497.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Tart recipe</a></strong>

  • Eggplant And Red Pepper Terrine

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/eggplant_and_red_pepper_terrine/" target="_blank">Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine recipe from Simply Recipes</a></strong>

  • Mushroom Broth With Smoked Eggplant Dumplings

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/20662-mushroom-broth-with-smoked-eggplant-dumplings" target="_blank">Mushroom Broth with Smoked Eggplant Dumplings recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Roasted Kale And Eggplant Tapenade

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/14265-roasted-kale-and-eggplant-tapenade" target="_blank">Roasted Kale and Eggplant Tapenade recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Dad's Ratatouille

    <strong>Get <a href="http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/dads_ratatouille/" target="_blank">Dad's Ratatouille recipe from Simply Recipes</a></strong>

  • Sautéed Eggplant With Honey And Thyme

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.aspicyperspective.com/2012/08/how-to-cook-eggplant.html" target="_blank">Sautéed Eggplant with Honey and Thyme recipe from A Spicy Perspective</a></strong>

  • Spicy Eggplant Salad

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://food52.com/recipes/15994-spicy-eggplant" target="_blank">Spicy Eggplant Salad recipe from Food52</a></strong>

  • Stuffed Miso Eggplant

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.steamykitchen.com/21518-stuffed-miso-eggplant-recipe.html" target="_blank">Stuffed Miso Eggplant recipe from Steamy Kitchen</a></strong>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • Eggplant Relish

    <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/eggplant-relish_n_1058376.html" target="_hplink">Eggplant Relish recipe</a></strong>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • 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>

  • WATCH: Choosing The Right Eggplant

    Chef Radha Tabak shows how to select the right eggplant.