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Melanzane: Eggplant, or Aubergines

Eggplant!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

Eggplant based Antipasti, Some of Which Will Also be Nice Sides

Primi: Eggplant Based Pasta...

Stuffed (and often Baked) Eggplant

Eggplant Sides

The Greens & Veggies Index
The General Recipe Index

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