Deep Purple

The Front Door & Kitchen

GUEST: Mr. McGregor

MR. MCGREGOR: [comes to door carrying a basket of eggplants, rings doorbell]
AB: [answers] Hi, Mr. McGregor.
MG: Hi there, Mr. Brown. You like eggplant?
AB: Well, gosh. Who doesn't?
MG: Well, these are the first of the season. I wanted to share them with you.
AB: Wow. Those are real beauties. You sure you have enough?
MG: Oh, me and the missus ... heh, heh ... we're got plenty and plenty more to come.
AB: Wow. Well thanks very much for thinking of me. I really appreciate that.
MG: You sure are welcome.

    What a great late-summer windfall, huh?

AB: Bye! [closes the door]

    When it comes to eggplant, I gotta say you can never have too much. Why? Well I can't think of another piece of produce on earth that can be cooked by every single cooking method around, wet or dry. Not even the potato can say that. Of course there's another reason to appreciate the eggplant, everybody but us does. I mean every culture on earth practically holds this thing in high esteem. What do they know that we don't? Well that when treated with a little understanding and patience, the egg plant is definitely good eats.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    When choosing an eggplant from a vine or bin this is what you want to see. Tight skin, no wrinkles or blemishes, the calyx is bright green and has a nice clean cut. It's kind of heavy for its size and when pressed with a finger the flesh gives slightly but bounces back all the way. Now the bigger the pod gets the seedier it becomes therefore the more bitter it's going to taste. That's because the seeds contain alkaloids which are related to nicotine and morphine, definitely not good eats, okay? Oh sex is also a factor, okay. Females—easily recognized by the oval navel that they have on the flower end—contain more seeds than, say, males which have a round bellybutton. More seeds, more bitterness. The difference isn't really noticeable in young specimens but when faced with larger, older pods always go with the boy veggies.

DD: [appearing at nearby window] It's not a vegetable. It's a berry, a nightshade in fact. First cousin to tomatoes and peppers. They're berries, too.

    Did you hear somebody say "nutritional anthropologist" because I know I didn't say "nutritional anthropologist."

AB: But while you're here, you might explain how anything other than Barney and the Artist Formally Known as Prince might hatch out of something that looks like this.
DD: Meet the original eggplant cultivated in India since at least the 15th century.
AB: Okay, how did we get from blank [Indian eggplant] to Barney [American eggplant].
DD: Remember the conversation we had about cabbage?
AB: Ah, so you're going to tell me that this mutated its way across from Asia to Europe.
DD: Well let's just say that the locals selected for certain characteristics. So as a result there's a Japanese eggplant ...
AB: Oh, very nice.
DD: Several Italian varieties.
AB: Oh, that's pretty.
DD: There's also Dutch, Filipino, Chinese and Turkish varieties.
AB: Wow.
DD: The Turks, in fact, say there's a thousand different ways to cook an eggplant.

    Heh. Probably lived next door to Mr. McGregor.

AB: Say, how do you like them?
DD: I like baba ghanoush
AB: Wow. You know that's my favorite, too. Bye now. [pushes her off the window]
DD: Hey!

Eggplant Aliases of Other Lands:
England - aubergine
India - brinjal
Australia - egg fruit
W. Africa - garden egg
W. Indies - brown jolly

The Back Porch

AB: [to an eggplant made up similarly to a Mr. Potato Head in a sinister voice] And now, Mr. Eggplant, I grill you whole! Ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ...

    Oh. Baba ghanoush requires whole roasted eggplant. Now you could do this in the oven, say, at 450. But I find that roasting over an indirect charcoal fire brings a certain smokiness to the party. Just make sure that you perforate your pods several times to give juices a way out. Just put them indirectly over the heat and give them about 7 to 8 minutes and then turn them. Just keep doing that until they are charred and black on the outside. Probably take about half an hour or so. Tell you the truth, in the summer time I put a couple of eggplants on the grill every time I fire this device up.

Eggplants can also be roasted in a 400° oven,
but make sure there's a pan to catch the drippings.

30 Minutes Later

    Ah, Mr. Eggplant and his friend are roasty-toasty soft and a heck of a lot smaller than they used to be because of the moisture loss. [picks up Mr. Eggplant and parts of his "face" fall off] Oooo. This guy lost face, too. And yet the ordeal is not over because now he gets to put up with a nice facial warp, as in plastic wrap. Why? You'll see.

The Kitchen

    Now the plastic wrap isn't absolutely necessary but if you use it I think you'll find that it's a heck of a lot easier to get the meat out of the pod and it's also a lot easier on your hands. Just snip off the end of the calyx, get hold of the end and kind of squeeze. There you go. Some of the skin might come off but that's okay. It's mostly pulp. Makes an easier clean up, that's for sure. Just make sure you snip under the calyx or everything will stick inside the pod. And be sure to hold it kind of like a toothpaste tube, squeezing it from the back towards the front. There. Perfect.

    Now let this drain for about half an hour. That's just enough time for the alkaloid laden liquids to drain away. Do you have to do that? Well, no if you like the idea of something that taste like an old cigarette butt soaked in tonic water well just go ahead and eat it. But I don't.

2 Cups Roasted Eggplant

    Now that Mr. and Mrs. Eggplants' remains are thoroughly drained, remove them to the food bowl of your food processor and add two cloves of garlic, sliced, about 3 quarters of a teaspoon of salt, 5 tablespoons of lemon juice, and about 4 tablespoons of tahini. Good stuff if not a little bit messy. Now time to chew.

2 Cloves Garlic, Sliced
3/4 tsp Salt
5 Tbls Lemon Juice
4 Tbls Tahini

Baba Ghanoush is often referred to as "poor man's caviar".

    Work into a paste and then give it a taste. I always keep a tasting spoon nearby. Mmm. If you think it needs a little more salt, now is the time. You want to add some pepper? Now is the time. I think this tastes pretty good.

Salt & Pepper To Taste

    Oh, if the eggplant is still a little bitter for you, nothing like a few drops of honey to take care of that.

Few Drops Honey

    This is where I would finally add herbs. If you add them too early they'll get too chopped up and will turn bitter. I like a little parsley. Mmm, that's probably half a sprig all together. Bolt this on. Pulse just a few times. You don't want to pulverize that parsley and you are done.

1/2 Sprig Parsley

    Toast up some pita chips, pop Ishtar into the DVD and, [takes a bite] mmm, get ready for a big night.

Thomas Jefferson is often credited with planting
the first eggplants in America at Monticello

The Front Door

MG: [carries a heavy basket of eggplant to the door, rings door bell]
AB: Hey, Mr. McGregor. Wow, you really do have a purple thumb, don't ya?
MG: Great thing about eggplant, you know: grow like weeds, can't kill 'em with a stick.
AB: You don't say. Hey, you sure that you and the wife have enough of these?
MG: Oh, no, no, NO.  She's already pickling a whole batch. I'll get you some of that.
AB: Oh, I look forward to that.
MG: Yeah, good. Eat 'm up. I'll go get you some more.
AB: Okay. Heh. Thanks. I think.

The Kitchen

    This is a botanical sponge meaning that it is porous meaning that it is full of individual air spaces or pores. That means that one slice this will soak up just about any fluid around be it fat or liquid. And that's bad because cooked, saturated eggplant turns into mush. So with the exception of baba ghanoush, I never cook eggplant without giving it a good wringing first. [squeezes eggplant slice and it crumbles] Okay that's not going to work. Why? [falls back on to a air chair]
    Because the eggplant cell walls are rigid, they're full of water kind of the way this [balloon] chair is full of air. Now it stands to reason that if we want to collapse those air spaces in that eggplant, we're going to have to coax some of the water out of the cell walls. Sounds like a job for ... [salt container is slid into view] Bingo. Here's how.

    [voice over] Lay the slices out on a rack over the sink and the liberally sprinkle with kosher salt. Now in 10 or 15 minutes enough moisture will have leeched out via osmosis to hold on to that salt. So flip them over and repeat.

    Cell walls are collapsing as we speak. We've initiated the purging process. Now purging is a lot like brining or curing only the eggplant's never going to get a chance to reabsorb any of that liquid because it's draining away. It's a one way trip. Now depending on the size and shape of the purging pieces, one to three hours will do the trick. But hey if you can afford more time, great.

    [voice over] After a thorough rinsing to remove any excess salt we are ready to wring. Now the cell walls are seriously weakened at this point so it's not going to take much. I just treat them like a sponge. After a good squeeze, dry thoroughly by wrapping your rounds in paper towels. Now when cooked these compressed chunks of flesh will take on a darned pleasant and meaty consistency.

    And don't worry. Once purged those pieces aren't going to soak up any more liquid than this [now flat balloon] chair would suck up air. But that doesn't mean we can't get liquid to stick to it. Something sticky perhaps like steak sauce. Of course we'd never just use steak sauce, would we? No, no, no. Not when we can build our own.

    Start with about half a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Follow that with a quarter cup of Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a quarter cup of ... oh, go ahead with the steak sauce. Pretty, no? It's the lava lamp you can eat. And last but by no means least, two tablespoons of honey. Hey, I never said food was fast. Now bring this all together in a bowl.

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive
1/4 Cup Worcestershire
1 Tbls Apple Cider  Vinegar
1/4 Cup Steak Sauce
2 Tbls Honey

  • [Alton stirs the ingredients in the bowl,
  • Dumps the eggplant into the mixture,
  • Tosses to coat then,
  • Lays them out on a rack over a sheet pan]

    Now there's nothing standing between us and the grill. [thunder] Did I mention that a broiler is basically just an upside down grill? Now once your broiler is up to full throttle, just slide these right in. You want to look for about 6 to 8 inches away from the flame if it's a gas broiler, 5 to 6 inches if it's an electric broiler. Now cook these for, say, 3 minutes on each side or until the eggplant just starts to char around the outside.

By the way, barbecue sauce is mighty good on eggplant.

    Now at this point you could plate, sprinkle on nice fresh herbs, maybe grind on some pepper and serve.

    Or you could pull these out, sprinkle on a little bit of hard cheese, shredded of course. I like Romano but parmesan would be fine as well. And be liberal with it. Try to cover each slice. Some of it's going to fall off but hey, that's why we're over a pan. There. Now back under until this is crusty brown.

Shredded Hard Cheese

    Now that is what I call good eats.

Although eggplants are available all year long,
they taste best from mid to late summer.

The Front Door

MG: [dragging box of eggplants to the front door, rings doorbell]
AB: Hey, Mr. McGregor.
MG: Hey there, Mr. Brown. You're ready for more eggplants aren't you I hope?
AB: Ah, about the eggplants. I'm kind of running short of counter space right now and I really don't think that I can ...
MG: Oh, good, good, good. Here you go. Still warm from this morning's sun. Aren't they beautiful?
AB: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's a beauty.
MG: Yeah, all right. Hey, I'll be back around tomorrow.
AB: Oh listen, about tomorrow. I'm going out of town.
MG: Oh yeah? Where to?
AB: Guess.
MG: Des Moines.
AB: That's right. I'm going to Des Moines.
MG: Well, I leave your share on your back deck.
AB: Oh, I just got a dog.
MG: I like dogs.
AB: He's got rabies!
MG: [walking away] Have a nice trip.
AB: [sighs]

The Kitchen

GUEST: Woman peeler

   For its next performance, eggplant is going to turn itself into pasta. We've got to do a little prepping. Before we cut it lengthwise and purge it we're actually going to peel it or at least mostly peel it. So cut off the calyx end and just peel from the top almost to the bloom end and then kind of kick out so that you leave just a little skin here at the bottom.

WOMAN PEELER: [screams off camera and fall]

    Egads! [runs over to woman]

CHEF: She's dead, Jim.
AB: Bones, what happened here?
C: Darn it, Jim. I'm a cook not a detective.
AB: Well we don't have to look far. There's the culprit. Another senseless peeler death.
C: Third one this year.
AB: You know these kids. They get out of culinary school with their fancy knives and they're still carrying these, these death traps, these 50 cent peelers. It's ....
C: Tragic.
AB: ... tragic.
C: Time to start taking applications?
AB: Yeah. Right away. And get the body out of here, will ya, and go ahead and notify the family.

    As we've seen here today, proper peeler evaluation is critical to your health and happiness. There are many factors for you to consider. First off, the handle. Let's face it. If your hand cramps after two point five spuds, you're in possession of a bad tool. So all flimsy, measly and uncomfortable looking handles have got to go. Next, blade configuration. Remember shaving with one of these [straight blade razors]? That's right. You walked around with a lot of tissue dots on you. Then came the "swivel". No more dots. Well what's good for shaving is good for peeling so all non-swivel models have to go. Of course a swivel is a moving part so you need to check the connection. If it's flimsy, if the blade just pops right out, imagine what a few bags of carrots will do. So cheap connections, got to go.
    Now as far as the blade itself goes, we've got two major choices. You could go with one of these ceramic models which never need sharpening, but they're expensive and what's more they're breakable. I don't like them. That leads us with stainless but even there we've got some choices: smooth or serrated. Now I find that these serrations stay sharper a lot longer. Those little teeth really grab hold of thick skin like on an eggplant or, say, a rutabaga. So I'm going to get rid of the smooth blades.
    That leaves us with style to consider. Now we've got a straight model. Very nice for taking a very thin layer off of a relatively uniform object, say a carrot or potato. This one has even got a little digger tool for getting eyes out of a potato. Yeah, I like that. That's nice. Then there are harp or "y" peelers. They usually have a deeper, wider bite so they're really adept at handling heavy peels and large surface areas like a really big eggplant. I also like these for shaving chocolate.
    So the answer seems clear. Every kitchen needs two peelers, a straight and a "y" peeler with a comfortable grips and swiveling, micro-serrated blades heartily attached to the rest of the device. Oh, you don't want to spend money for two. Well fine. The next tragedy will be on your head.

Peeler checklist
•Comfortable handle
•Swiveling micro-serrated blades
•At least two shapes on hand at all times

    Our eggplant has been peeled, purged and cut into fine strips. Why? Because we're going to make eggplant parmesan. Oh, I know. You're saying that takes too long. Well we've got a version around here that takes one minute. And to prove that we're going to bring on my script supervisor, Stephanie.

AB: Stephanie will you please come in and help me out with this.

    She has a special stop watch.

AB: Are you ready?
STEPHANIE: I'm ready.
AB: Set. Go.

[adds oil to hot skillet]

1 Tbls Olive Oil

[adds garlic and chile flakes]

AB: Count down every 10 seconds for me if you would.

1/4 tsp Minced Garlic &
1 Pinch Red Chiles Flake

S: 10.

[adds garlic strips, tosses]

S: 20.

1 Med/Large Eggplant Sliced, Purged And Cut Into Strips

[adds tomato, tosses]

S: 30.

[continues to toss]

1 Small Tomato, Seeded And Diced

[adds cream]

S: 40.

3 Tbls Cream

[adds basil]

[adds cheese, tosses]

S: 50.

1 Tbls Basil Chiffonade

1-2 Tbls Shredded Parmesan Cheese

S: 53 ... 54 ... 55 ... 56 ... 57 ...

[plates, adds crumbs]

S:  ... 58 ... 59 ... 1 minute.

[flicks food off end of tongs while waiting for 1 minute to be up, taps on dish]

Bread Crumbs To Taste

S: Pretty impressive.

This recipe can be doubled but you'll need a bigger pan and 2 minutes at least.

The Front Door

MG: [brings wheelbarrow up to steps filled with eggplant, rings doorbell]
AB: Hello, McGregor.
MG: Hey there, Mr. Brown. What'dya do with the eggplants I left while you were away?
AB: Batting practice.
MG: [laughs] Heard that already from Mr. Anderson up the street. Heh. Hey, got you some more.
AB: Oh, no. No, no, no. No more of your tribbles, McGregor.
MG: But, but. But, but, but I can't bring them back home.
AB: Nope. Nope. I'm not buying. [closes door]
MG: Mrs. McGregor will kill me. And I can't throw them away. [sobs] I've raised them from little seeds. [sobbing]
AB: [returns] All right. I'll take them.
MG: Oh, great. Hey, and I'll have some more for you tomorrow.
AB: No!
MG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MG: And you can, you can keep the wheelbarrow. [runs off]
AB: No! You take ... [picks up an eggplant and lobs it at MG] 

The Kitchen

GUEST: Maureen "Princess" Petrovsky

    Eggplants keep best between 45 and 50 degrees so the average chill chest is a little on the chilly side. If you're going to cook your eggplants within a day or two, just set them in the coolest spot you can find in your kitchen ... [looks around at eggplants everywhere] ... if there's any room left. If you need to hold them longer than that, wrap in a couple layers of plastic wrap and keep them on the top shelf of your fridge. But remember under perfect conditions an eggplant is only going to keep 14 days. If you bought at the market, there's no real way to know how long it's been on the run so eat quick. Or go ahead and slice, purge, and dry your pods and seal them in heavy freezer bags. Refrigerate this for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months. [sighs] I'm going to need a bigger box.
    This week we're proud to launch the first in a series of investigative field reports generated by Good Eats staff members. Today executive Sous Chef, Maureen "Princess" Petrovsky, brings us this story on eggplant and nutrition.

MAUREEN "PRINCIESS" PETROVSKY: [on a small TV behind Alton] Thanks, AB. I'm here at the World Nutrition Symposium in Brussels, Belgium. After several days of meetings, lectures, and speeches concerning eggplant, I've got great news. Eggplant is almost entirely fat free. The bad news is it's almost entirely protein, carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral free, too. In other words, eggplant isn't really very nutritious at all. Sorry.
AB: Thank you Maureen.

    Well there you have it, kids. You can all relax and eat your eggplant because although it's by no means bad for you it's not apparently that good for you either.

AB: [off camera to no one in particular] YOU HEAR THAT, MCGREGOR!

    So what have we learned? We've learned that eggplants are berries. That you can avoid bitter ones by buying either young pods or male pods whenever possible. You should purge them by slicing them, then salting them, letting them stand, then rinsing and squeezing them. We also learned that they liked to be stored and cool—but not too cool—of a place.

  • Eggplants Are Berries

  • Buy Young or Male Pods

  • Purge-Slice, Salt, Stand, Rinse, Squeeze

  • Store In Cool Place

    And we've also learned that although eggplants aren't necessarily good neighbors, they are most definitely good eats. See you next time.

Proof Reading help from Sue Libretti

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010