Eggplant or aubergine is a vegetable which is actually the fruit of a perennial plant from the member of the Nightshade family. Food history has it that once upon a time in Turkey it was essential for a bride to know 27 ways to cook aubergine in order for her to be worthwhile to her future husband.
In 16th century Spain, aubergines were known as 'apples of love'. Curiously, according to Lorenza De' Medici, the Italian translation of aubergine is 'apple of madness'. It is said that people at the time were suspicious of the fruit and feared that its consumption may be harmful.
With its subtle flavour and silky texture, aubergines are a versatile ingredient in cooking. Among other things, they can be grilled, baked, stuffed, barbecued over coals, or sautéed. Aubergines are the main ingredient in Baba Ganoush, that silky, flavoursome dip which is served with flat bread as part of a mezze. In France, they are combined with zucchinis and tomatoes to form the rich and delicious Ratatouille.
Interestingly, carbon steel knives or metallic dishes may cause the flesh of the aubergine to discolour, so it's best to avoid using these utensils in your preparation. Also, once sliced and exposed to air, aubergine flesh will quickly turn brown, so pop the slices into acidulated water (water with some lemon or lime juice or white vinegar added to it) to prevent this.
Here's a handy shopping hint: take note of the prickles on and around the stalk. The sharper the prickles, the fresher the aubergine. The fruit will keep for up to two weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
I'm sharing with you my recipe for grilled capsicum and aubergine stacks, a dish that's packed with flavour and simple to prepare.
GRILLED CAPSICUM & AUBERGINE STACKS
2 medium-sized aubergines
2 red capsicums
baby spinach leaves
100g fresh ricotta
Wash and dry the capsicums. Slice them into four lengthways and remove the pith and seeds. Place onto a grill tray skin-side up and roast until the skin blisters and blackens. Dip them very briefly into a basin of cold water or plastic bag, then carefully peel off and discard the blistered skin. Pat the flesh dry with paper towelling. Slice each strip in half and set aside and keep warm.
Next, prepare the aubergine. Using a sharp knife, trim away the top of the eggplant and cut the fruit lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Spray the slices with olive oil and grill until golden brown in both sides. Set them aside and keep them warm.
Wash and dry the rocket and baby spinach leaves. Working quickly, assemble the stacks. Place a slice of aubergine onto the serving plate. Spread the aubergine slices with the ricotta, then layer with a slice of capsicum. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the capsicum, then top with rocket and baby spinach leaves and another slice of capsicum. Spread a little more ricotta over this layer and finish off with a slice of aubergine. Continue this process with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately. This recipe is sufficient to make four stacks and will serve two as a light dinner.
Do please tell me your favourite ways of cooking aubergine or eggplant, I'd love to hear from you.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.