First of all, at least for us East-Tennesseans, eggplant is at its peak during the late summer weeks. Yes, I am hinting at it...now is the perfect time to explore eggplant recipes! Many chefs from the Italian or French culinary paradigms will say that eggplant needs to be fried in a lot/not a lot of oil or that it is often bitter/not bitter. I say let's all just agree to disagree on the matter and get to experimenting in the kitchen. Like many ingredients, the more you familiarize yourself with it, the more you will learn tips and tricks that work best for you in your own kitchen. Until then, I will share with you some tips I have found help me. When I want to grill eggplant (which I do often, and highly suggest for various occasions) I typically will select smaller ones rather than the extremely large eggplants EXCEPT when I want to grill it for a panini or burger...then I select large ones. Anyway, my reasoning behind this is simple: smaller eggplants typically are more firm and tend to be about the same diameter from top to bottom (so your appetizers or whatever will be consistent in appearance). The larger eggplants tend to bow out wide near the bottom of the vegetable. But then again, I am picky, so all this may not matter to you! To each their own, right?
One more tip from myself: when you cut into an eggplant, don't freak out about the small brown spots/seeds. They're supposed to be there. I'm going to tell on my ignorance a bit, but the first time I used eggplant my sophomore year of college I was unaware of this tiny little trait and thought I picked a bad one and tossed it in the garbage! I know. What a waste. Live and learn, and that I did.
Here is an easy appetizer for a gathering where eggplant is the star:
How to make this: slice eggplant 1/4 inch thick. Salt and pepper to taste and douse with a little extra virgin olive oil before grilling (outdoor grill or grill pan both work great). Cook time varies with a person's preference of how crunchy you want your veggie. I usually grill till I have some nice, pronounced grill marks (as pictured). Then slice some tomato (variety is up to your preference...all tomatoes are delish!) and top with your favorite cheese and herb. I chose fresh mozzarella and a sprig of sweet basil. Enjoy!