Eggplant can be delicious

Happy Anniversary to Jim and Darla Word! And many more!
My days in Devine were interesting to say the least! After all the warnings about storms and the information on TV that kept saying that I was going to be driving through rain and into more rain, imagine my surprise when I had almost no rain at all during the trip. The only times I had to use my wipers were if oncoming cars splashed me. Evidently, since the pavement was wet, I was not driving during a shower, but following the showers. In places the bar ditches were full of water, other places no water was in them at all. In fact, the rain, when I drove from Devine to Castroville, was the worst I drove in until that time. Later in the day, it rained intermittently as we went out to eat lunch and then drove on to LaCoste to visit with my Aunt and Cousin. We had lunch at Castroville Café and it was pleasant enough that we sat on the front porch for our meal, which was, as usual wonderful. It was only after I left LaCoste and started toward Devine that it began to rain and kept it up the whole trip out to my daughter’s home! My son-in-law met me with a large umbrella and helped me carry the things I would need into the house. Later that evening, when we went to bunco, it was drizzling when we were getting our friend and going to the home where we would play, however, it was another story entirely when we came out of the house a couple of hours later! Talk about a downpour, it just kept coming down. Of course, we hadn’t taken our umbrellas into the house so we got a little damp getting to the car and it didn’t stop raining until sometime during the night. Thursday morning dawned with still more rain, but that didn’t stop me for too long from doing the things I wanted/needed to do, which included going to Castroville and then to Hondo for lunch with my son. By the time I got to Hondo, it had quit raining at least a little while and we enjoyed our lunch at Heavy’s. That man surely does know how to make barbecue! I enjoy it every time I’m in there.
When I got back to my daughter’s home, my son-in-law and I headed out to San Antonio to visit with my brother-in-law who has been in the hospital there for the past three weeks. And, guess what? It rained the whole trip to San Antonio, stopped enough that we walked into the building with just an occasional spattering and finally quit while we were inside. Driving home was not bad, not much traffic and not too much rain. It evidently stopped during the night, because Friday morning the porch and chairs were dry and we were able to sit outside and drink our coffee! By the time I was ready to leave to come home, the rain was nowhere to be seen, the pavement was dry and it was a really pleasant trip all the way, and for a change, there was no road work going on and I never followed a “follow-me” truck the whole way, which was extremely pleasant, as I’ve had to do that on almost every road I take for the past six months or more!
The eggplant, (solanum melongena), as well as sweet peppers, tomatoes and potatoes, belongs to the nightshade family.
16th century Spaniards called eggplant by several names, including berengenas or “apple of love”, while botanists of the same period, in northern Europe called it “Mala insana”, or “mad apple”, because they thought eating it would make a person insane. Another name is aubergine. (You mean you didn’t know that the new, hot color called aubergine was really a deep, dark purple?) Neither did I until I looked it up in a dictionary!
It is most generally believed that eggplant got its name from some very early varieties that were white and had an egg shaped appearance. The eggplant as we know it today is a dark, glossy, almost black purple, and has a rather pear shaped appearance. Florida, New Jersey and California are the top three states growing eggplants, with Mexico also raising a large amount.
But, did you know that when an eggplant first appears from the bloom that it is already purple in color? I didn’t either, until I moved to Devine and saw them growing on the Van Damme farms! It was a real surprise to me as no one I knew grew them in their gardens as I was growing up. (When Mother cooked eggplant, it was peeled, sliced and fried, just as you would okra or squash). There are many other ways to cook eggplant and I’ll give you a couple of recipes to try.
Eggplant can have a tendency to be bitter tasting in some instances, so it is very important to know what to look for when you purchase them. The most important thing is freshness. Check for an eggplant that is not too large. An overly large eggplant will have more seeds and they can cause bitterness. The eggplant should be shiny and firm, but not rock hard, with no blemishes or bruises. The stem should always be on the eggplant and when you cut into it, the eggplant should be white with few seeds and no green coloration. If it has a green tinge, it is a sign of an immature eggplant.
A one-half cup serving of eggplant has only 26 calories. (Of course, this depends on how it is cooked!).
Opinions are divided as to whether an eggplant should be peeled or not before cooking. In some dishes, such as eggplant Parmesan, grilled eggplant, stuffed eggplant and caponata the skin is left on. A difference of opinion also exists as to whether the eggplant should be soaked in salted water, salted and allowed to drain in a colander or not salted at all before cooking. Mrs. Van Damme told me to always place the sliced or cubed eggplant in salted water to soak for a little while before cooking. She said this would remove the bitterness! Since the only way it had been cooked at home was sliced and fried, I was pleasantly surprised when dining at a cafeteria, where it was offered on the menu cubed and fried. This was much easier to eat and stayed crispier than the slices did. Since then, I have eaten it prepared in a casserole, just about the same way as squash is and have eaten it as eggplant Parmesan, which is very good.
Fried Eggplant
1 eggplant 1½ to 2 pounds
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices and peel. Then cut the slices into cubes. Place the cubes in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and cover with water. Allow to stand in water 1/2 hour or more if desired. Drain well in colander. Place drained eggplant in bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper or seasoned salt if desired. In plastic, season flour with a little additional salt and pepper, place eggplant in bag and shake to coat thoroughly. Heat oil in large skillet, shake eggplant in flour again and fry in one layer in skillet until lightly browned, turning as necessary. Continue until all eggplant is fried. Drain on paper towels as you remove it from the skillet.
Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, (the kind in the green can)
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup olive oil
1 can or 1 jar spaghetti or marinara sauce (usually about 3 or 4 cups), (or you can make your own, you’ll need about 1½ to 2 cups)
Mozzarella cheese for topping dish
Mix together cheese and bread crumbs and set aside. Cut eggplant into slices about 3/8 inch thick, peel each one, sprinkle with salt and place in colander to drain. Remove slices from colander, dip into beaten egg, and then dredge slices in the cheese/bread crumb mixture. Heat oil in large skillet, fry a few slices at a time until lightly browned on both sides, drain on paper towels. Place slices in baking dish, spoon about 1/2 of sauce over slices. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350ºF. Top with either mozzarella slices or shredded mozzarella and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.
Eggplant Casserole
2 pounds eggplant
1 stick butter or margarine
2 small green bell peppers
2 medium onions
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten enough to mix thoroughly
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoon bacon drippings (optional)
½ to 1 cup shredded longhorn cheese
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Peel eggplant, cut into cubes, place in a small amount of water and cook, drain well, lightly mash and set aside.
Dice bell peppers and onions, cook together in butter or margarine until onions are transparent, mix into eggplant along with the sugar, flour, eggs and bacon drippings if used. Pour into lightly greased casserole, dot top with 2 or 3 tablespoons additional butter if desired. Bake at in preheated oven for 25 minutes, top with cheese and bake 5 to 10 minutes more. (If you decide you really would rather not eat eggplant, use 2 pounds yellow squash or zucchini squash instead of the eggplant and follow the rest of the instructions).
Now, here’s a recipe for my fans that are not supposed to have a lot of sugar. I’m sorry there are no directions as to substitutions, and as you read the instructions, you’ll find that they are “no bake”.
Sugar-free Oatmeal Chews
¼ cup butter
1 can (12-oz size) evaporated skim milk (i.e. Pet, Carnation, etc.)
3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 packages (1/2-ounce, each) sugar-free cocoa mix
10 packages Equal®
Heat butter in a large pan, when almost melted, add milk and bring to a boil. Add oatmeal, peanut butter, cocoa mix and Equal®. Mix well and using your hands, press into a 9×4-inch pan. Cover, place in fridge and chill. Cut into squares to serve.