“The happiest omen for a New Year is first Mount Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly eggplant.” This Japanese proverb highlights one of the products that’s hot on the market: eggplant! Also called aubergine in other countries, eggplant is a versatile food. The name eggplant comes from the small, white, egg-shaped variety. This name is slightly more appealing than the name used in renaissance Italy, which was “crazy apple”. 

Similar to tomatoes, we could also pose the fruit vs vegetable argument. Eggplant is a nightshade, making it closely related to the tomato and potato. Botanically, eggplant is a fruit. Just like blueberries, tomatoes, and watermelon – eggplant is a berry, meaning the entire plant ovary wall ripens into the edible fruit. In the culinary world, eggplant is classified as a vegetable – being used for savory rather than sweet flavor. Here’s a secret: it will taste the same whether you call it a fruit or a vegetable. 

India is the country of origin for this fruit, however China is currently the largest eggplant producer. These countries have been cultivating eggplant for over 1500 years. The plant enjoys warm weather, and the prime eggplant season for Ohio is mid-summer through early fall. Eggplant is a perennial crop, meaning that it grows back year after year. Despite this, many farmers plow their fields after harvesting and replant, treating this crop as an annual. Once the plant starts growing, it will reach up to 5 feet tall, growing large, coarse leaves. The fruit itself comes in several shapes and colors. The three main shapes are oval, tear-shaped, and rounded shape. Color varieties of eggplant that you may see include solid black, solid purple, white, or striped. 

When cooking eggplant, the fruit is great at absorbing large amounts of sauces, making it great for rich dishes. With growing numbers of people following vegan or vegetarian diets, eggplant has become an increasingly popular meat substitute. Classic dishes that feature eggplant include Greek moussaka, Italian eggplant parmigiana, Romanian zacusca, and Middle Eastern baba ghanoush. If you want to try any of these, check out the recipes below! 

In closing, another Japanese proverb reads: “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants,” meaning don’t let yourself get taken advantage of, because those autumn eggplants are the best! 

Baba Ghanoush

Countryside Original Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplant

  • ⅓ cup tahini

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • 1 bunch parsley

  • 1 tsp Cumin

  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and brush the inside with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet with the flesh sides down.

  2. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how large your eggplants are.

  3. Remove eggplant from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Scoop out the inside and place in a food processor, leaving the skin behind.

  4. Add all remaining ingredients, excluding the olive oil, to the food processor and process until smooth. Serve with pita chips, bread slices, or your favorite vegetables, and enjoy!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Recipe from gimmesomeoven.com

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced into ½ inch slices

  • 2 cups Panko bread brumbs

  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • ½ tsp black pepper

  • 2 eggs

  • 4 cups marinara sauce

  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

  • ⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Bread the eggplant. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the Panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and (1 teaspoon) fine sea salt and black pepper until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs with 2 Tbsp water. Dip an eggplant round in the egg mixture so that is evenly coated on all sides, then transfer to the breadcrumb mixture and coat on all sides, then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant rounds until they are all coated and evenly spaced on the baking sheet(s). 
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, until the eggplant is softened and mostly cooked through.  Transfer baking sheet(s) to a wire rack and set aside.
  4. Layer the casserole. Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly across the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Place half of the eggplant in an even-ish layer along the bottom of the dish, topped evenly with 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 cup Mozzarella, all of the Parmesan, and half of the basil, the remaining eggplant, remaining marinara sauce, and the remaining Mozzarella.
  5. Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and starts to turn slightly golden around the edges and the eggplant is cooked to your liking.  Transfer pan to a wire cooling rack and sprinkle with the remaining basil and extra Parmesan.
  6.  

 Zacusca

Countryside Original Recipe
Find more on this recipe here!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant

  • 2 bell peppers

  • Oil as needed

  • ½ a medium onion

  • 2 Jalapeño Peppers

  • 1 large tomato

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 6 slices of bread

Directions

  1. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the eggplant. Bake eggplant and peppers on a foil lined sheet at 400°F for 20 minutes. Remove peppers and bake eggplant longer if needed. The skin should blacken. Remove skin from eggplant and seeds from peppers. 
  2. Place eggplant and peppers into a blender or food processor and process until chunky. 
  3. In a pan, heat oil. Add chopped onion and chopped jalapeños. Cook for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add all ingredients to the pan. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until everything breaks down. Simmer up to 90 minutes, or until desired thickness is reached. 
  5. Adjust seasonings, spread on toast, and enjoy!