Füsun A.

AN ECLECTIC WRITER

FusunA

FusunA
Location
Montréal, CANADA
Birthday
January 12
Title
Freelance Writer - jack of all genres;master of none.
Company
warm and genuine
Bio
I divorced my full time career of teaching after 25 years, because meanwhile I fell in love with freelance writing. Ever since, I decided to legitimize my ten-year fling which started in the new millennium. Author of: "WILL OF MY OWN - A Memoir" Available at all major book outlets. For a preview please visit: http://www.dictionmatters.com/

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JUNE 7, 2010 10:23PM

Shady treasures

Rate: 22 Flag

Whether it's called aubergine, berengina, patlican or melenzane, eggplants got their name because not only did they originally come in one color – white – but also, hanging from the plant, they looked like eggs.

Eggplant_EasterEggPlant_ParkSeed 

image credit 

The eggplant is a member of the solanaceous, night shade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, red and green peppers, as well as the paprika. When I was a child, my tongue was very sensitive towards certain fruits and vegetables. Although I loved peaches, tomatoes, and even eggplants the way mother cooked them, my tongue swelled along the sides and felt very uncomfortable for quite a while after the consumption of what I came to name my 'forbidden food'.

Part of my suffering was demystified when I read that in the 1940's, an American horticulturist, Norman F. Childers, claimed that eating nightshade foods results in a "buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glykoalkaloids and steroids...and may cause inflammation, muscle spasms and stiffness." His theory was based on his claim that eliminating foods of the nightshade family from his own diet cured hid arthritis.

In some places, the eggplant is known as the "mala insana" meaning,"bad egg" or "bad apple". According to a legend, an Indian traveler ate some eggplant raw, had a fit, and people thought the eggplant had posioned him.

Unfavourable health claims and legends aside, eggplant is a celebrated and very versatile vegetable which has found its way into cherished cuisines of many Eastern, Western, Oriental, South Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. Believed to have originated in India, this vegetable spread to Europe by way of Africa. From Europe, it came to the America, and was being cultivated in Brazil by the mid-1600s. 

Although Italians were growing it by the 14th century, interestingly the vegetable doesn't figure in the northern Italian cuisine as it does in southern. A probable reason for this is that eggplant needs heat and considerable irrigation in order to grow.

Early in the growing season, eggplants produce beautiful, star-shaped, blue-violet flowers. The eggplant is the berry which form after the flower drops. The vegetable is mild-tasting and spongy; meaty yet low in calories. It's never eaten raw, but it can be baked, sauteed , grilled or fried. The best eggplants are firm and shiny without broken skin.

The most commonly available eggplant, available year round, is a deep purple – almost black. However, when eggplants were shipped, they scarred and bruised easily. Therefore, after much experimentation and work, hybridizers developed an eggplant that wouldn't scar. In the process they widened the variety to many shapes and colors which range from dark purple to light pink and even green.

eggplants

Baby (Italian) eggplants are available in the summer months, with the peak in July through September. In sunnier climates, they're available year-round, but the supplies may be limited.

Eggplants may be white, purple or striped; round, oval or pear shaped; the flesh is firm and creamy white with a lot of edible seeds i the centre. Baby or Italian egplants are smaller and have a thinner skin. Japanese eggplants are thinner, longer and are a light purple.

In choosing an eggplant, go for a firm and shiny one that's heavy for its size. If it's large but feels light, it will be pulpy. Press the flesh gently with your thumb; if it leaves an indentation, you do not want that one. The tip should be green and fresh-looking; a green cap with little spikes around the stem is a tip that the eggplant is fresh.

Next, lok at the blossom end to determine if it's male or female. Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds and therefore they taste less bitter than the female eggplants. To determine the gender of the eggplant, look at the indentation at the bottom, away from the stem side. If it's shallow and round, it's a male.

Store at room temperature on the cool side, or wrap loosely and store in the crisper of your refrigerator. A firm eggplant will keep for several days. Freshness is important, s o don't store them for too long.

Although smaller eggplants tend to be less so, eggplant has a tendency to be slightly bitter.

To get rid of the bitterness, wash the eggplant, slice it, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain in a colander for upto half an hour. Besides purging the bitter juices, salting eggplant also prevents it from absorbing oil when you fry or saute it.

Eggplant may be used in dozens of different vegetable dishes. It is a satisfying substitute for meat or vegetarian meals. Here is an out of the ordinary recipe using this shady vegetable.

bake at 350 for 30-40 mins

Imam Bayildi

Before I go into the preperation of this delightful meal, I'd like to share the curious origins of its name. In Turkish "imam bayildi" literally means "the priest fainted".

There are two schools on the interpretation of the origins of this term. I suggest you pick your choice, but whatever you believe, do take it with a little grain of salt.

One is that eggplants are said to absorb a lot of oil. When you read the recipe, you'll understand this explanation, that when the imam, who asked his wife how much oil she used in making the dish, "fainted" at the answer the young wife gave him. She replied, "Why, dear husband, I used only half a gallon – olive oil."   

A little overkill, wouldn't you think?

The second explanation is more benign. It is said that the imam, when he tasted this dish for the first time, loved it so much that he declared he "fainted" over it. You see, in Turkish there's an expression, "Aman, bayildim!" It is used to express one's delight in something by stating one has fainted over it, ("Oh, I fainted"). Something a little akin to the expression, "To die for!"

Thus the name Imam Bayildi stuck to this delightful eggplant dish which is consumed at room temperature or straight from the fridge. It makes a great accompaniment for steak, grilled chicken, fish; or can be enjoyed just by itself with a crusty bread and a glass of wine.

I hope you'll give it a try, and as you do, think of the poor imam. Enjoy, but please, don't faint over it ! 

Bon Apétit. Afiyet Olsun. 

happy_birthday_annecim1272916422

Recipe:

This recipe does not need exact measures. If I have left over filling, I use it for pizza topping, huevos rancheros, or toss it with fresh pasta.

6- 8 small, thin Italian eggplants

2 large onions, quartered and sliced

3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced.

3-5 Roma tomatoes, diced

Parsley, chopped - divided

salt and ground pepper to taste.

½ cup olive oil

Wash eggplants, dry and remove stems. Peel in strips. In medium hot oil, fry them whole, turning occasionally, until slightly golden and softened but NOT fully cooked. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the oil remaining in pan add onions, saute until translucent and golden. Add tomatoes, garlic, seasonings and cook another 3 minutes. Add chopped parsley. Cool a little to handle.

With a spoon and a fork, part each eggplant lengthwise in the middle to open a slit. Do not go all the way down to the bottom. Into these "boats" spoon as much filling as possible, pushing gently and pulling the sides over on the filling. Repeat until all are done.

Place stuffed eggplant "boats" in an oven-proof casserole and bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not add any liquid as the liquids exude during baking. Cool. Before serving, sprinkle with more finely chopped parsley.   Store in the refrigerator for upto a week.

There is a more step by step pictorial version of this recipe in a recent post here if you are interested.

Recipe and Photography

by

Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © DictionMatters-2010

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Comments

Type your comment below:
There's more where this comes from. :o)
Such an informative and educational post, Fusun. I am certainly learning a great deal from you! Thank you!
There's more, eh? You are such a show off, but rightfully so. The info is even better than Alton Brown's. Fine! thank you for the recipe. R
Oh, so mouthwatering! The priest won't be the only one to faint if I make this! But I'd like to try! Thank you FusunA!
Fascinating history - I didn't know anything about egg plants!
My late father in law used to plant eggplants and we would have eggplant parmesan or he and Nona would pickle it.
I miss Nono and miss the eggplants.
Rated with hugs and memories
Gratis
This was so fun to read, and yummy too! :)

-R-
Little Kate: I enjoy writing about food history, thank you for your kind feedback.

Thoth: Turkish cuisine has a lot of uses for the eggplant, you know. . .

Susan: Let me know if you have any question and how it turned out. Thank you for dropping by.

Kit: I hope now you do - know something about eggplants. Thanks for coming by.

Linda: Some of our nicest memories are associated with food aren't they? Hugs back to you.

Lady Miko: Thank you dear one. I hope you're doing well.
Fascinating, but do you know any good egg-plant dishes for the microwave or broiler oven?
I loved this because I had never seen a picture of the eggplant that made it actually seem to be eggs. It was a delight to learn the origin of the name. I am in love with eggplant and have used too much oil to fry it in the past. I use a method now that I hardly use any and bread, lightly fry and bake to get the oil taste but not saturation. It is a favorite food and I even eat it as a sandwich. Yum. Great post. R
Karin: It's time you started cooking with eggplants, they can be very rewarding - meaty, but not meat.

Fred: Absolutely no to microwave, but I can think of an eggpant salad by charring the eggplant under the broiler.
The first time I ever tried egg plant I was convinced I wouldn't like it. Boy was I wrong....it was delicious. Been eating it ever since.
Eggplants ar e a staple of my diet, but I had no idea they had such a complex and wonderful history. So much great information - I particularly loved the part about the difference between male and female eggplants. Who would have known? Thank you for this.
Fusun, it is midnight and you have made me hungry!!! I'll be right over, once again, fork and knife in hand!!! xoxox
I love this.
And for the ultimare in Eggplant Lore, see the reimagining of the Pochohontas Legend in John Barth's masterwork, THE SOT-WEED FACTOR (1960).
R.
I love this eggplant journey. Thanks for this.
Yumsville! And educational too. You're a sunny treasure, Fusun!
Yummy! The eggplants look wonderful and the recipe sounds divine. Thanks for sharing this scrumptious stuff.
It looks very good. I'll give it a try!
I'm so excited. We planted egg plant plants in our garden this year and they are doing very well..Last year they never came up... Can't wait for egg plant dinners.
Gorgeous veg. But I can't eat it, at least not fried (soaks up oil), which sickens this Oh-Oh-Oh Aubergine.
Thank you for this post! I look forward to making imam bayildi. It looks yummy. A friend makes her spaghetti sauce with eggplant and it is delish. Love the picture of the white eggplants also - I had never seen them before.
This is a fabulous post and sharing of eggplants! I absolutely love eggplant dishes and search them out when dining out. And, of course, will make them at home from time to time.

For years I stopped eating eggplants because I read somewhere that they have very little, if any, nutritional value. However, all the ingredients that make a delicious eggplant dish, are chock full of nutrients and make a wonderful replacement for meat, with very satisfying results.

Thank you for a great and comprehensive look at the versatile eggplant and all its varieties. Splendid!
Hey, congrats on making the cover! Dunno how I almost missed this one, because I love you, Fusun, and I love eggplant. Just caught a glimpse of your sweet face whilst scrolling down to see the new posts. Yummy, all around!
Yippe yay yey ! Thanks every one who dropped by and left such gracious comments. I won't be able to reply individually because of time constrains, but thank you so much, you are all very kind. Love and peace to all. Füsun
I love eggplant, thank you for this recipe, always looking for something new for my favorite. I love it grilled with olive oil and garlic... plain and simple too.
Congratulations on the EP, Fusun! So well deserved.
Rita and Kate:
Thank you for your kind comments. Love seeing you here.