Country Kitchen: Eggplant For Many Meals

Country Kitchen: Eggplant For Many Meals

By Mary Emma Allen

Eggplant, a very versatile vegetable, has become popular in this country because it can be prepared in a great variety of ways. This vegetable also is favored by those counting calories, for it contains relatively few and has no fat.

This vegetable is thought to have been cultivated 4,000 years ago in southeastern Asia, probably originating in India. The Arabs brought the eggplant to Spain during the 12th century, where it was grown in Andalusia by the Moors. Spaniards believed the eggplant to be an aphrodisiac.

Spread to Other Countries Slowly

This food has been eaten for centuries throughout the Middle East, but did not become widely accepted in Europe until the 18th century. At first, it was grown by the Italians and English solely as a decorative plant.

Initially eggplant wasnÂ’t used as a food because it was regarded as a "mad apple" which would cause insanity. The French also thought the eggplant caused epilepsy.

The Eggplant in America

One of the first Americans to grow eggplant was Thomas Jefferson, who continually experimented with many new vegetables in his gardens. In the early 19th century, recipes for eggplant dishes began appearing in American cookbooks.

Although the average American isnÂ’t overly fond of eggplant, more than a million and a half bushels are produced commercially. Other Americans raise this vegetable in their gardens.

Numerous Methods of Preparation

In the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, eggplant is a favored food. So there we find numerous ways to prepare it.

FRENCH RATAOUILLE is a casserole consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and zucchini.

GREEK MOUSSAKA alternates layers of eggplant, lamb, onion, and spices baked in an egg sauce.

SICILIAN CAPONATA is a cold, spicy appetizer prepared with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives, nuts and capers.

BABA CANOUJ is a cold eggplant salad spiced with garlic and cumin.

EGGPLANT LASAGNA - I've made a lasagna recipe substituting the eggplant slices for the pasta noodles. Then follow your usual directions for lasagna. This is a tasty dish for those who like eggplant in an Italian setting.

FRIED EGGPLANT - My aunt used to fry eggplant slices as she did summer squash or zucchini. Or you can prepare a combination of fried eggplant and squash. Dip the slices into beaten egg; then coat with bread crumbs. Fry in skillet until browned on one side, then turn and brown on other side. Sprinkle with paprika before serving.

(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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