Melanzane: Eggplant, or Aubergines
In introducing eggplant in La Scienza in Cucina a little more than a century ago, Pellegrino Artusi said the vegetable was hard to find in Florentine markets when he was young (the 1850s), because Florentines considered it to be "Jewish food" and abhorred it, and went on to say, "this goes to show that Jews, in this matter as in others more important, have always been sharper than Christians." The nod to Jewish culture & taste was removed from his book by the Fascists (and has yet to reappear in mass market editions), while north Italy's suspicion of eggplant in Artusi's day would likely have surprised those in the South because it played (and plays) an extremely important role. For that matter, eggplant is now popular in the North too.
In partial defense of the North of Artusi's day one might note that the eggplant was imported from afar and initially used as an ornamental plant whose fruits were viewed with suspicion; Melanzana, the Italian for Eggplant, either derives from Mela Insana ("noxious apple") or is a combination of mela and the Arabic badingan. Presumably those living in the south began eating it sooner because it grows better there than the north, or perhaps because hunger drove them to try it. In any case, eggplant comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from spherical to cylindrical, and from tiny to enormous. Smaller eggplant tend to be milder in flavor, while larger ones can have bitter overtones, which can be leached out by sprinkling the sliced eggplant with salt and letting it sit for a while in a colander. You will probably want to salt the eggplant in any case to remove some moisture, because eggplants become quite watery otherwise during cooking. In terms of what size to use, this depends upon what you are doing. If the eggplant is to be sliced or chopped, you can use smaller ones, whereas if you are planning to stuff your eggplant, you will want larger ones.
The Joy of Cooking notes that eggplant discolors quickly when sliced, unless it is sprinkled or rubbed with lemon juice, and suggests that it be cooked in enamel, glass, or stainless steel to combat this discoloration. It also notes that a pound of eggplant is equivalent to 3 cups diced.
- A Selection of Eggplant Recipes on Site
Melanzane alla Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmesan
- Melanzane alla Parmigiana
One of the finest dishes known to man! An excellent recipe, with several variations; cut into small squares it's an excellent appetizer.
- A Lighter Version of Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Since the eggplant are not fried, this eggplant Parmesan is much lighter, and less fattening than the original. But good!
- Walter's Variazione della Parmigiana
An extraordinarily elegant, light, easy to do Parmigiana!
Eggplant based Antipasti, Some of Which Will Also be Nice Sides
- Melanzane a Scapece
A refreshing summer eggplant dish that will also be a nice appetizer.
- Melanzane in Carrozza
Sandwiches made with eggplant and mozzarella, fried -- a Neapolitan classic.
- Mozzarella wrapped in Eggplant, Prosciutto & Cheese
Tasty morsels that will wow your guests.
- Barchette di Melanzane Con Funghi e Salsiccia
Eggplant boats filled with mushrooms and sausages: A hearty antipasto!
- Eggplant Rollups with Walnuts: Involtini di Melanzana alle Noci
Quick, easy, and perfect as part of a light luncheon.
- Melanzane Calabre
Zesty Calabrian eggplant with garlic and hot pepper, a perfect summer antipasto.
- Melanzane Fredde
Chilled eggplant, which will work nicely as an antipasto or side dish.
- Melanzane in Salsa Verde
Eggplant with salsa verde, a zesty green sauce. Perfect in summer.
- Melanzane Sott'Olio
Eggplant packed in oil with seasonings and herbs.
- Melanzane Grigliate
Grilled eggplant are very easy and get better with time.
Primi: Eggplant Based Pasta...
- Spaghetti Alla Norma
Pasta with eggplant and tomatoes, a classic Sicilian dish that's amazingly good.
- Eggplant Parmesan With Pasta: Parmigiana con le Paste
A tasty variation on the Neapolitan classic.
- Penne alle Melanzane
Penne with a tasty eggplant sauce, from Lazio.
- Timballo di Spaghetti con le Melanzane
An unusual pasta pie whose crust is made of eggplant rather than dough. Perfect for the summer months!
Stuffed (and often Baked) Eggplant
- Eggplant Stuffed with Cheese: Melanzane Imbottite di Formaggio
Eggplant work very nicely with cheese, and also with tomatoes.
- Involtini di Melanzane
A novel stuffed eggplant dish, seen on TV.
- Melanzane Ripiene al Pomodoro
Stuffed eggplant baked in tomato sauce. Another Neapolitan classic.
- Melanzane al Forno con le Olive
Eggplant halved and baked with a zesty olive-and-anchovy topping!
- Melanzane in Pirofila
A simple eggplant dish, in which they are halved and baked with a tasty tomato sauce.
- Milagiane Chjine (j is pronounced like the English ee)
Delicate stuffed eggplant, Calabrian style.
- La Capunatina
A quick, simple, very tasty caponata recipe.
- Caponata alla Siciliana
The classc recipe.
- Melanzane al Funghetto
Eggplant cooked as one would cook mushrooms -- in other words, stewed, but without tomato.