Aubergines are not high in any single vitamin
or mineral. However, it is very filling, while supplying few
calories and virtually no fat, and its "meaty" texture
makes it a perfect vegetarian main-dish choice. In various parts
of Europe, eating aubergines was suspected of causing madness,
not to mention leprosy, cancer and bad breath, which prompted
its use as a decorative plant. But by the 18th century it was
established as a food in Italy and France.
Look for a well-rounded, symmetrical aubergine with a satin-smooth,
uniformly coloured skin; tan patches, scars, or bruises on the
skin indicate decay, which will appear as discolorations in
the flesh beneath. An aubergine with wrinkled or flabby-looking
skin will probably be bitter. If you press the vegetable gently
with your thumb, the indentation should refill rapidly if it
is fresh. A good aubergine will feel fairly heavy; a light one
may be woody. The stem and calyx (cap) should be bright green.
A medium-size aubergine , 3" to 6" in diameter, is
likely to be young, sweet, and tender; oversized specimens may
be tough, seedy, and bitter.
Ideally, aubergines should be stored at about 10ºC. Cold
temperatures will eventually damage it, as will warm conditions.
You can store an uncut, unwashed aubergine in a plastic bag
in the refrigerator salad drawer for three to four days. If
the aubergine won't fit easily in the drawer , don't try to
squeeze it in; the vegetable is so delicate that any undue pressure
will bruise it. The skin is also easily punctured, leading to
Wash the aubergine just before using, and cut off the cap and
stem. (Use a stainless steel knife for cutting aubergines ;
a carbon steel blade will blacken it.)
Aubergines may be cooked with or without
their skin. If the aubergine is large, the skin may be tough,
so you may want to peel it with a vegetable peeler. White varieties
tend to have thick, tough skins, and should always be peeled.
(If you're baking it , the flesh can be scooped from the skin
Many recipes call for salting eggplant before
cooking it. This step draws out some of the moisture and produces
a denser textured flesh, which means the aubergine will exude
less water and absorb less fat in cooking. Salting also seems
to eliminate the vegetable's natural bitter taste. Rinsing the
aubergine thoroughly after salting will remove most of the salt;
however, if you are following a sodium restricted diet you should
not use this method.
To salt aubergines
Cut in half lengthwise (or slice or dice it, depending on the
recipe) and sprinkle the cut surfaces with salt; 1/2 teaspoon
is sufficient for a pound of aubergines. Place the salted flesh
in a colander and let stand for about 30 minutes. You can then
rinse the flesh , squeeze out the excess moisture, and pat dry
with paper towels.
Unlike many vegetables, aubergines are not
really harmed by long cooking. Its vitamin content is minimal,
so you don't have to worry about destroying it. And undercooked
aubergine has a chewy texture that can be quite unpleasant,
whereas overcooked aubergine simply becomes softer. Just don't
cook aubergines in an aluminium pan ; otherwise, the vegetable
A whole aubergine that is baked yields soft flesh that's easy
to mash or puree, and it requires no attention while cooking.
Pierce the aubergine with a fork several times (otherwise it
may explode as the interior heats up), place on a baking sheet,
and bake until soft to the touch. Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes
in a 400° F / 200°C / gas mark 6 oven.
For baked aubergine halves, cut off the stem,
then halve it lengthwise. Score the surface of the cut sides.
Place the aubergine halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet and
brush the cut sides lightly with oil.
Pierce a whole aubergine with a fork and cook, rotating every
two minutes. Or, place a 500g of cubed aubergine in a microwavable
dish, cover, and cook. Cooking times: for whole, six to eight
minutes; for cubed, three to four minutes.
Aubergines cooked this way act as a veritable sponge for the
fat, so sauteing (or any other form of frying) is not recommended.