Season's Eatings: PlacerGrown Eggplant
The eggplant is long prized for its gorgeous purple skin, as well as its unique taste and texture. It is a jewel in the garden and a prize on the table. Known as Aubergine, brinjal, melongene, and guinea squash, eggplant is a flavorful and delicious addition to many meals. Grilled, baked, sautéed, or stir-fried, eggplants appear in a variety of recipes that offer a range of flavors and promote a healthy diet. High in fiber and rich in a broad set of vitamins and nutrients including antioxidants, Vitamins K, B1, B6, potassium, manganese, niacin, thiamin, and folate, they are believed to help combat high blood pressure and anemia, plus help with brain function and bone health. Eggplants can also be used as part of your skincare routine, promoting healthy skin and a natural glow.
SELECTION AND STORAGE
Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, free of scars and bruises with a stem and cap of bright green, and their color vivid. Eggplants can come in a variety of colors, including lavender, jade green, orange, yellow-white, and deep purple. Eggplants are actually very perishable. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper for up to three days. When cutting eggplant, be sure to use a stainless-steel knife as a carbon steel blade will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black.
IN THE KNOW
Mark your calendar now so you don’t miss out on these events in Placer County. October 5 is the Loomis Eggplant Festival. Bring the family for delicious wine, locally grown food and family fun. October 6 is the Farm and Barn Tour, a FREE self-guided expedition of farms and ranches in the beautiful countryside of Placer County. October 19 is the 9th Annual Apple Festival at Machado Orchards with fresh apple pies, music, vendors and more. Visit placergrown.org for more information on these and other upcoming events.— Carol Arnold // PlacerGROWN
For details on where to buy Placer County farm-fresh produce, wine, meat and other products, visit placergrown.org
Eggplant Caponata with Grilled Levain
Photo and recipe courtesy of Courtney McDonald of Four Tines Farm
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, medium diced
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 medium-large eggplant, diced into ½ inch cubes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. red chili flakes
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup tomato puree
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup drained capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 loaf levain bread
1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or shallow pot. When oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, pine nuts and raisins and cook, stirring often, until pine nuts are toasted and onions begin to soften (about 6 minutes). Add the eggplant, cinnamon, cocoa, chili flakes, bay leaves and sugar and continue to cook until eggplant is beginning to soften–another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and add the tomato puree and vinegar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the eggplant is soft–about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the capers, chopped parsley and oregano. Let cool at room temperature. Alternatively, caponata can be made up to 3 days ahead of serving, stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
While caponata is cooling, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Slice the levain into ½-inch-thick slices, brush each slice with olive oil and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side until well-caramelized. Transfer to a serving platter and serve alongside the caponata, allowing guests to top their toasts with the caponata.