What is an Aubergine

This is one of those things you don’t really know that you know! I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day. The day was really quiet around my house, I texted Happy Father’s Day to the fathers of my family and sent a card to my son and my brother.

After early church and breakfast, it was time to read the paper, nap and get busy. We are having a celebration at the hospital this week Tuesday, celebrating the fact that the hospital is 100 years old, and we now have a historical plaque that will be dedicated that day. There is to be a tour of the hospital with each department having someone show folks around, the visitors will be served a meal at the end of the tour and our auxiliary gift shop is the last station for them to visit. We will have a table set up with cupcakes so when they have finished the tour, they have dessert to go with the meal that will be served outdoors. I’m looking forward to it as I think it will be very interesting. This afternoon, (Sunday), I went to town and got some pink napkins, picked up a tablecloth at our workshop and got some small flowers to use on the table in a decorated basket. If there are any cupcakes left after the tour, we will be selling them to anyone who wants them; we chose to do this instead of a bake sale! I think we will have some to sell, as I made over four dozen. One box of cake mix was the gluten free type; they turned out well, and are frosted with white butter cream frosting. The only flavor available was the Pillsbury® brand with sprinkles. I put multi-colored sugar on the tops. The second batch was poppy seed and they are frosted with coconut pecan frosting and the last batch is strawberry which will have strawberry flavor butter cream frosting!
Have you ever cooked an eggplant? Do you know what they are? Oh, you’ve never cooked one, because you thought nothing that color could taste good, but you know what they are! In that case, we are getting somewhere, aren’t we?
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. Place flour in plastic bag, season 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 jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese for topping dish
Mix together cheese and bread crumbs, 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. Serve with spaghetti, salad and garlic bread.