Maine Dish: World of Ways to Cook Eggplant



Sometimes I need to be careful what I wish for. My farming friends and family know my weakness for surplus product. They see it as potential compost. I see it as product. Nothing goes to waste, it just gets “put by” for next winter.

Excess cucumbers. I see pickles. Seventy pounds of strawberries. I’m sipping smoothies from frozen whole berries and eating lots of jam. Garlic scapes and Mrs. Burns lemon basil tops. Quick root stir-fry with scoops of frozen pesto.

So when Seth from Crystal Spring Farms called me with 40 pounds of eggplant, I was happy to oblige.

Except for one small challenge, aside from eggplant parmigiana, we really don’t eat much eggplant.

I like to call challenges “educational opportunities,” so I set out to learn a bit more about the glossy-skinned, deep-tasting eggplant. Barbara Kafka’s book “Vegetable Love” was all it took, like one-stop shopping.

Kafka highly recommends the microwave oven for cooking eggplant, primarily for the lightness of taste and lack of bitterness. Prick the eggplant several times with the tip of knife (my forks were too dull to pierce the flesh). Put a double thickness of paper towels under the fruit and microwave on high, until the eggplant deflates. A 1-pound eggplant takes about 12 minutes.

For recipes using cooked eggplant puree, cook and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut the fruit in half lengthwise, scoop out the flesh, and puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth. From here, the culinary possibilities are endless.

The eggplant has a storied, ancient history. They grow wild in Southeast Asia and India. As the fruit traveled around the globe, each cuisine adapted both its cultivation and preparation. This delicious world trip took me to France, Romania, Italy and Russia. It’s worth owning the book just for the delightful read.

Now the question is to my readers: What does one do with 39 pounds of eggplant?

Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].

Eggplant Caviar

(Baba Ganoush)

Makes about 3 cups

This recipe for a classic Middle Eastern dish is adapted from Barbara Kafka’s book “Vegetable Love.”

  • 1 medium eggplant (1-1¼ pounds), roasted or cooked whole in the microwave
  • 3 Tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint or lemon basil

To cook the eggplant in the microwave, pierce the skin several times with the tip of a sharp knife. Cook on high until it deflates, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes or more.

Cut the still-warm eggplant in half, scoop out all the flesh and discard the skin. Roughly chop the flesh and put in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil while still warm and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic.

Season to taste with lemon juice, sea salt and fresh pepper. Spoon into serving bowl. Garnish with chopped herbs. Serve as dip with vegetables and toasted or grilled pita pieces. Serving size is ¼ cup.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 40 calories, less than 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat, (0 grams trans fat), 10 mg. sodium, 1.3 grams fiber.

For more arts & entertainment news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Cheryl Wixson
"Maine Dish" columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine products led to the creation of her business, Cheryl Wixson's Kitchen. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected] or www.cherylwixsonskitchen.com.