Eggplant, also known as aubergine, is a good source of fiber, potassium, manganese and other important vitamins and minerals. It is a popular ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Eggplant has a mild to slightly bitter flavor, and the texture is soft and spongy, although if it is cooked in too much oil it can become slimy. To remove the bitter taste and improve the texture of eggplant, slice the fruit into 1-inch slabs and salt them liberally, then let them rest for half and hour so that some of the moisture can "sweat" out. Rinse off the salt before cooking.
Eggplant Parmesan is a classic Italian dish. Since eggplant is the star of the show here, use the freshest, highest quality eggplant you can find. Dredge sliced eggplant in flour, dip it into an egg wash, then cover with Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake the breaded eggplant in a 350 degree F oven for about half an hour, until the eggplant is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy. Meanwhile, cook a pot of spaghetti or other pasta. Dollop a few tablespoons of tomato sauce over each slice of eggplant, then cover with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Return it to the oven just long enough to warm the sauce and melt the cheese. Serve the breaded eggplant over warm pasta.
This Middle Eastern appetizer can be used as a dip for crackers, flat bread or crudités, or as a sandwich spread with cheese and fresh veggies. Brush sliced eggplant and garlic cloves with oil and roast in the oven until they are very soft. Allow the eggplant and garlic to cool, then puree them with tahini, lemon juice, salt and herbs and spices like parsley, cumin or cayenne pepper.
Ratatouille is a French casserole that is traditionally served as a side dish, but also makes a hearty and filling vegetarian entree, especially when accompanied by polenta, rice, pasta or good, crusty bread. Ratatouille may be served hot, chilled or at room temperature. In a large saucepan, sauté a sliced onion in olive oil for about a minute, then add minced garlic and eggplant cut into 1-inch cubes and cook over medium heat for about five minutes until the eggplant softens. Add strips of bell pepper, sliced zucchini, diced tomatoes and herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and parsley, and cook, covered, over low-medium heat until the vegetables are cooked through, about 15 minutes.