What is that purple thing in the produce section?

It is still dry here. While we have had showers, there hasn’t been any really measurable rainfall. However, at least we have nights that are cooler and the daytime temperatures are staying in the 80s and 90s, rather than over 100ºs on a daily basis. Wednesday morning, our first ‘norther’ blew in and dropped the temperatures rather quickly. After church, several of us had gone to breakfast together and as we left the restaurant, it was about fifteen degrees colder than when we had gone in. The rest of the day stayed cool and extremely windy.
My brother and his wife came in the week before, we got to visit and spent time together and then they went to S. Padre for a short vacation. When I spoke with her Saturday evening, she said it was absolutely great there in the ‘off’ season without a lot of people around. She also got to watch as the storm come in over the water and got some beautiful pictures. They posted one on face book and it was totally awesome. They will head back to north Texas today and once again be in colder, damper weather than we have in our area.
Saturday morning, my friend who spends the summer in Michigan called and we compared temperature notes. She was totally surprised to find that it was only two degrees warmer at my house than it was up there! She is so ready to come home, and told me that it is already jacket time and fireplaces are being used. She and her husband have a motor home and they work at the RV Park during the summer, checking folks in and various other tasks. They really enjoy it but she is ready to come back home! She said there was a group of folks with the older type travel trailers that come each year for a rally, have camp fires and gather together to catch up with each other since the previous year. The group is there at this time and once they leave, she and her husband will head back to their home here in Texas. She is already planning things for the two of us to do together when she gets back, and I’m looking forward to seeing her again. We sort of pick up where we left off several months ago when they get back, and she’s always fun to be around.
Today, is Sunday, I’m up an hour earlier than I need to be so I decided to get this column done. Once church is over, it’s back here to the house for me and at lunch time, my sister and I will head to Castroville, where there is a baby shower for the young lady who will make her appearance in December and be my 13th or 14th great-grandchild! It looks as if it’s going to be a beautiful day, the wind is not blowing as strong as it has been for the past several days, and at this time, it is not raining. I surely do hope it stays this way and we have a good trip!
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 at 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, without any 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 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.
Eggplant or Squash Casserole
2 pounds squash or eggplant
1 stick butter or margarine
2 small green bell peppers
2 medium onions
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten enough to mix thoroughly
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons bacon drippings (optional)
½ to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Clean squash thoroughly*, cut into slices and cook until barely tender. Drain well and mash slightly. Dice bell peppers and onions and cook until onions are transparent, mix into squash along with sugar, flour, eggs and bacon drippings if used. Pour into lightly greased casserole. Dot top with 2 or 3 tablespoons of additional butter or margarine if desired. Bake at 325º for 25 minutes, top with cheese and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer. *If using eggplant, slice eggplant, peel and cut into cubes, soak in salted water for a few minutes, drain well, and then follow remaining directions.