This week, we're covering the best tips and recipes with eggplant. From eggplant dips to eggplant chips, to curries and pastas, there are millions of ways to cook with eggplant. Also a food waste tip that will also save you time. And finally, a fast food chain takes the leap to embrace vegan eggs.
Produce of the Week: Eggplant
A proud member of the nightshade family, eggplants are a delicous and versatile veggie. They're especially great meat substitutes in vegan and vegetarian cooking. The spongy vegetables absorb flavors easily. And they're just as delicous crispy and roasted as they are grilled or puréed.
What are the different kinds of eggplants?
Eggplants, also called aubergines, are actually technically berries. But honestly that's kind of tough to wrap my head around, so I'm going to keep calling them vegetables. Sorry 'bout it.
Originally from India, cultures around the world grow eggplants. They like warm climates, however. So they're especially popular throughout Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Here in America, deep purple globe eggplants are the most common variety. Though you've probably seen the lovely stripey guys pictured above too. They're called graffiti or Sicilian eggplants. They're generally smaller than globes. Italian eggplants are another common variety. Similar in deep purple color to globes, you can distinguish them by their smaller size.
Speaking of size, the adorable fairy tale eggplant is the tiniest variety. It's lighter purple and fun-sized and oh so cute! Not to mention the name 🙂 Indian eggplants are also small, but rounder and darker than fairy tales. They're delicious simmered in a curry.
With cooking, the flesh breaks down to add creaminess to curry sauce. Longer, thinner eggplants you may see are Japanese or Chinese eggplants. As you might guess, these slice up nicely into little rounds and are delicious cooked quickly in a stir-fry.
Tips for cooking with eggplant
Since eggplant is grown all over the world, there are dozens of different culinary options when it comes to cooking with eggplant. A few things to note before you get started:
- Eggplants, though lower in nutritional value than a lot of other vegetables, are full of water. If your goal is to crisp the veggies by stir-frying or roasting, beware. They are prone to mushing unless handled properly. It's worth the extra time to salt your eggplant after cutting and before cooking. Letting salted eggplant sit for up to 30 minutes helps release some of that moisture that will prevent your slices from crisping up. You'll see water droplets form quickly on the surface of your eggplant slices. That's sure sign you're on the right track for crispiness. After about 30 minutes, simply wring your eggplant out in a clean dish cloth. If you have larger slices, you can also just pat them dry with an absorbent cloth. Remember that you've already added a fair bit of salt to your ingredient, though. You may want to cut back on additional salt in your recipe.
- Another key to achieving crispy eggplant is to use enough oil. The veggies absorb oil readily, so don't be afraid to toss them in enough to coat well. Also, high heat is always a good choice for crispness.
- In addition to getting crispy, eggplant also has a unique ability to turn into tender, creaminess when cooked low and slow. We love this feature as it lends body and flavor to vegan recipes. Roast an eggplant whole in the oven for a dip or soup. Or, simmer large slices in a thick coconut curry sauce. Whatever you do, you'll be pleased with the tender texture.
- A note for buying eggplant: you want a veggie that's firm, with bright, almost squeaky skin. Avoid dark patches, which indicate bruising on the inside.
- And remember, bigger isn't always better. Eggplants have seeds, so the larger the vegetable, the more seeds you'll find. Japanese and Chinese eggplants tend to have very few, small seeds, which make them easier to cook with for quick meals. Of course, it's totally fine to eat eggplant seeds, it's more the texture that you might want to avoid.
Vegan Eggplant Recipes you Need to Try
- Vegan Cobb Salad with Eggplant Bacon
- Roasted Eggplant Ragu from Veggie Society
- Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta
- Lentil-Stuffed Eggplant Boats with Tahini Dressing
- Eggplant Chips with Avocado-Lime Dip from Divalicious Recipes
- Roasted Eggplant, Carrot, Tahini Dip
- Instant Pot Vegan Baingan Bharta from Two Sleevers
- Vegan Lentil Moussaka from Choosing Chia
Food Waste Tip of the Week: Keep the Skin on
Put down the peeler! Eggplants, and many other fruits and veggies, pack a ton of nutrients in their skin. All that color is generally a good sign that something is nutrient-dense.
Eggplants, being so water-dense, don't pack a ton of micro or macronutrients. And yet, the majority of the vegetables' fiber and antioxidants are packed into its purple exterior.
And the same is true of other produce, like apples and potatoes. The skin is full of fiber and other nutrients. So by peeling your food, you're not only tossing out beneficial nutrition, you're also piling up the food waste. Save yourself the time and waste, and bring on the fiber by stepping away from your peeler.
Currently Happening in the Food Industry
Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons has proven to be quite progressive when it comes to plant-based foods. First, the chain was early offer Beyond Meat sausage. More recently, it added the Beyond Burger to its menu. In fact, Tim Horton's didn't even sell burgers previously!
And this week, the Canadian chain is the first fast-food restaurant to add plant-based eggs to its menu. As part of a pilot, select locations will offer Just Eggs in place of chicken eggs in their omelettes. The plant-based egg substitute, made with mung beans and colored with turmeric, only recently hit consumer stores. The company is only 5 years old, but has made a splash with both retailers and restaurants. They started with mayo, and their product line now includes vegan cookie dough and dressings.
We love to see large corporations partnering with plant-based companies. And we're encouraged to hear that, according to the Plant Based Food Association, plant-based eggs sales reached $6 million in the year ending April 2019. And they're expected to grow. We'll be staying tuned to hear how things go with Just Eggs up north and hope to see some vegan scrambles on American menus soon!