Although we are used to seeing large purple fruit in the grocery store, eggplant exist in a variety of shapes and sizes (and most of these are more flavorful than your grocery store variety).
The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed. The fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato and the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible.
Eggplant and Feta Dip
Makes 12, 1/2 cup servings
To make it ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to two days.
Serve with pita chips, as a sandwich spread, or, my favorite way, with a fork as a salad.
1 medium eggplant (about one pound)
2 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (red if possible)
1 small, finely chopped bell pepper
1 small chile, such as jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
1 TBS chopped parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of sugar (optional)
Position oven rack about 6 inches from heat source, preheat broiler. Line baking pan with foil and place eggplant in pan (poke a few holes all over to vent steam). Broil the eggplant, turning it every 5 minutes, until skin is charred and knife inserted into the dense flesh near the steam goes in easily (about 15 minutes). Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and and scrape out the flesh, tossing with the juice to prevent discoloration. Add oil and stir with fork until it is absorbed (eggplant should be a little chunky). Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, chile pepper, basil, parsley, cayenne, and salt. Taste and add sugar if desired.