Tuesday, June 10, 2008


If you haven't noticed the expanded produce section at the Golden Springs Winn-Dixie, it might be worth a drive out there to see what's going on.

Among the listings: two types of artichokes (see Wedneday's food section for a recipe and how to prepare the things) and a handful of different types of salad greens, cabbages, Asian vegetables.

And, drumroll, a slew of different types of eggplant. (Photo: Jupiter Images)

Eggplant is one of those vegetables the rest of the world loves, but Americans seem reluctant to dive right in to. That's a shame, because it grows well in our gardens around here, and now there's a ready selection to pick from.
Eggplant -- known as the aubergine everywhere outside North America -- is a member of the nightshade family. (Although I've heard it referred to as "eggplant" in Australia, so maybe that name is fair game in the Australia-New Zealand sphere). It's native to India and has been eaten since pre-historic times.

A bit of web trolling turned up a fabulous Web site on Italian food -- Italian food forever -- and it has more eggplant recipes than you'd use in a Month of Sundays. Most are deeply redolent of Mediterranean goodness. They require simple preparation, few ingredients, and take full advantage of the different types of eggplant. (Photos: Italian Food Forever)
Leading producers: China, India, Egypt and Japan. One of the more unusual dishes I've ever had was at a Chinese restaurant in the Russian Far East, just across the border from northern China. It was a stewed eggplant dish, served cold. I admit, the texture set me back at first, but once I adjusted to eating cold eggplant, the flavor was solid.

While raw eggplant can taste bitter, it quickly mimics the other flavors that it's cooked with. It can absorb a lot of oil, though, so be frugal in brushing on the olive oil or other fats.

Recipes use all our favorite Southern cooking techniques: grilling, frying and tossing everything into one pot. Roasting is also an easy way to enjoy eggplant.
Give it a go.