Plated + Served: The Color Purple… and White… and Red…


Eggplant gets a bum rap.

That’s because most people have never tried it when it’s at its most delicious: in the summer, when it tastes fresh and sweet and bright.

Most of us have had only old, spongy eggplant… gray and bitter, and well past its prime (kinda like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”).

The fact that it comes in some of the most beautiful colors in the vegetable world doesn’t even help. One bite of soggy eggplant parmesan (which is how most people are introduced to it) is enough to turn anyone off forever.

You’re familiar with the large, purple, almost-black globe eggplant. But eggplant comes in an amazing number of other shapes, sizes and colors. Chinese eggplant is a gentle purple color, long, thin and elegant; Rosa Bianca eggplant is small, round, with delicate lavender stripes falling from the stem; Japanese eggplant is dark, thin and oblong; the delightfully named fairy tale eggplant are small and precious, with an enchanting sweet flavor; red-orange eggplant are very bitter (that’s because they are meant for pickling); and white eggplant is graceful and beautiful because of its absence of color.

The taste of eggplant varies subtly, but this is always true: the lighter the color of the eggplant, the milder the flavor. But regardless of the color, when you’re buying eggplant it should be firm, smooth and heavy for its size. The glossy taut skin should spring back when gently pressed. The stem should still be green. Don’t refrigerate it before cooking… it deteriorates quickly.

Eggplant is amazingly versatile: grill it, broil it, stuff it, fry it, roast it, sauté it. Use it in sauces, dips, pastas, soups, casseroles, stews, purees… and of course in eggplant parmesan.

My favorite way to prepare it is relatively simple: roast it outside over a covered grill until the eggplant collapses when pressed gently with tongs (20-40 minutes depending on the size). Cool for a little bit and then scoop out the inside. Mash in a little tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and parsley and you’ve got a Middle Eastern classic: baba ghanoush or eggplant dip.

Bright. Flavorful. Tasty (with a nice, subtle, smoky flavor).

Now… the eggplant is ready for its close up, Mr. De Mille.

Baba Ghanoush
prep: 20 minutes
cook: 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant

you’ll need…
1 ½ lbs. eggplant
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup tahini paste
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

let’s get to it…
eggplants with a fork in several places (otherwise they will explode).
Place eggplants on a hot grill rack. (Grill is hot enough if you can hold your hand 4-inches above the grill for only 2 seconds). Turn every few minutes to cook evenly.
Cook eggplants until skins darken, wrinkle and collapse. Press the sides gently with tongs: the eggplants should feel soft and mushy. Remove from grill and cool for 5 to 7 minutes.
Split eggplant down the middle. Scoop out the inside with a spoon and drain in a colander for about  5 minutes, pressing gently with a spoon. Discard skins.
Place eggplant, lemon juice, garlic and tahini in a food processor fitted with the steel blade attachment. Pulse a few times until mixture is chopped and blended but not smooth.
Remove mixture from food processor and place in a serving bowl. Stir in parsley and chill for at least 30 minutes.

cooking know how
Want to serve this delicious dip without lighting the grill? It’s easy! Place the oven rack in the middle an preheat oven to 450°F. Pierce eggplants in several places with a fork. Place eggplants on a cookie sheet and cook for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Don’t forget to turn the eggplants every 10 minutes or so! Proceed as directed in the recipe.

Like it? Share it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: