This sweet ode and praise to the versatile little eggplant stole my heart. The rich, meaty, purpley produce product is one of my favorites to prepare in a variety of ways – however, I am aware that it can be also instill one of those “love or hate” relationships in many flexitarians.
Eggplant is often called “meaty,” by which we mean what, exactly? Substantial? Versatile? Flavorful?
All of the above, for sure (as well as tough and chewy on occasion; not necessarily a bad thing). But the comparison is no more fair to the aubergine than it would be to call a piece of beef “eggplanty.”
Eggplant stands alone, a vegetable like no other. Actually, because eggplant is a fruit, like the tomato, to which it’s closely related, it’s safer to label it a food like no other, beloved and appreciated worldwide and deserving of respect, not as a meat substitute but as a treasure in itself.
It isn’t a competition, but if you asked me the old desert-island question, I’d take eggplant before any meat I could think of (and, yes, that includes bacon). It would be ridiculous to claim that eggplant can outperform meat, but it’s not a stretch to see it as useful as any one cut of meat.
I enjoy a good meaty serving of eggplant in so many ways. A favorite method I devised years ago, around the time when I invented “the wrap” sandwich (inside joke, but, yes, I single-handedly invented “the wrap”), involved thinly slicing a little Japanese eggplant, brushing with oil and seasoning with salt and pepper before broiling or grilling. Topped with a bit of sauteed radicchio, perhaps some caramelized fennel, and heaven-on-earth Manchego cheese, this sammy (or even left as a salad) will leave you on Cloud 9.