A Short Culinary History of The Eggplant
Though eggplants have always grown wild in India, the first eggplant was cultivated in China around 5th century B.C. Historically, this vegetable is an everyday food in India, Asia, and most of the Middle East. In fact, this “meaty” vegetable is often used as a meat substitute in Middle Eastern cuisine. Though all varieties of eggplant hold a revered place within Middle Eastern cuisine, and especially Persian cuisine, its introduction within the Mediterranean and European cuisines has been a tremulous one.
Due to the excessively bitter taste of the early varieties that were introduced to Europeans, superstition and folklore regarding this vegetable evolved to attribute its bitter taste to a bitter disposition so much so that the cultivation of eggplants was believed to lead to insanity, leprosy and cancer. Fortunately, in the mid 18th century, the cultivation of less bitter varieties of this vegetable helped reduce the amount of superstition surrounding it. Not long after this the eggplant carved itself the prestigious place it now enjoys within European and Mediterranean cuisines.
Fun Fact: Do you know why the eggplant has a slightly bitter taste? As a close relative of the tobacco plant, eggplants contain small amounts of nicotinoid alkaloids which taste bitter. Of course, these amounts are so low that even eating nothing but eggplant for days will not cause you to become a nicotine addict.
Baked Eggplant Frittata Recipe
This baked eggplant frittata recipe showcases the use of this vegetable within Persian cuisine which can best be described as a cross between Greek and Indian cuisine. But, what sets Persian cuisine apart is the fact that it is more varied than Greek cuisine and less spicy than Indian cuisine, with a heavy reliance on such Vegan ingredients as fruit, vegetables and nuts.
- 2 large eggplant, peeled
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 large white onions, thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped Parsley
- Pinch of Saffron, dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
Frittata Recipe Instructions
- Peel eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices
- To remove bitterness, soak eggplant in a bowl of salt water for 20 minutes. Remove, rinse and pat dry
- Brush olive oil on both sides of the eggplant and broil for 10 minutes or until it is golden brown on both sides
- Mash eggplant with a fork and set aside
- Lightly brown the onions and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil and add to the eggplant
- Break eggs in a large bowl
- Add Parsley, Saffron water, lime juice, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper to the eggs
- Beat egg mixture thoroughly before adding the eggplant and onion mixture to it
- Spray a Pyrex dish with Pam and pour frittata mixture in it
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Bake Eggplant frittata, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown