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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Cooking with aubergines

Aubergines are perfect for light summer dishes and there are many different ways of preparing them. These low-calorie vegetables taste good with couscous, grilled as antipasti, in a vegetable pasta sauce, in lasagne and moussaka. There are dozens of variants of pureed aubergine – flavoured with Indian spices, or as baba ganoush mixed with tahini, garlic and lemon juice, for example. These creamy dips go well with raw vegetables, or simply with bread. Aubergines can also be filled with any mix of rice, bulgur, vegetables and/or minced meat. Simply halve the aubergine, scoop out the flesh leaving a good “wall”, chop up the flesh and mix it with the other filling ingredients, pile it back in the aubergine halves and grill. Grated or crumbled cheese on top adds flavour and protein. Aubergines harmonise well with all types of meat, with fish and other seafoods and with Mediterranean specialities like olive oil and feta cheese. And they’re an essential ingredient in classic dishes like ratatouille.

Don’t eat them raw!

If you want to peel aubergines without their skins, you can peel them or slide the skins off after pouring boiling water over them. Or you could grill them whole in the oven at 200 °C for 20 minutes and then scraping off the blistered skin with a knife. A few drops of lemon juice or olive oil will keep the flesh pale during cooking. But never eat aubergines raw; they contain solanine which can cause nausea and gastrointestinal upsets.

Origin, appearance and health bonus

Aubergines probably came from eastern Asia. The original fruit was yellow-white and the size of a chicken egg – that’s why they’re sometimes called eggplants. Like tomatoes and potatoes, they’re members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Nowadays the typical aubergine is a luscious purple-black colour with a smooth glossy skin. You can eat the whole aubergine, including the soft seed kernels in the centre. An aubergine is 90% water, so it’s a low-calorie winner and it also contains B vitamins, folic acid and minerals like potassium.

Buying, quality and storage

Only buy fresh, ripe aubergines (unripe fruits contain more solanine). You can tell they’re ripe when the skin gives slightly when you press gently. The skin should be smooth and glossy and the stalk crisply green. If the flesh has brown patches, it’s been stored too long or over-ripe. 

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de