Italian “perlina” eggplants (aubergine) are very similar to the Chinese eggplant. They have a thinner skin and a sweeter, more delicate flavor. They also have fewer seeds, which tend to make eggplants taste bitter. The great thing about these delicate beauties is that they do not need to be “purged” of any bitterness before cooking.
This variety can be found at your local farmer’s market or a green grocer selling specialty foods. When buying eggplants, pay attention that the stem is still attached and does not have withered parts and that the skin of is smooth and taut – this is the best indication of its freshness. If overripe, they their flesh becomes stringy and bitter. Eggplants can be stored whole in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Alternatively, they can also be frozen, however before doing so, they should be primed, sliced and then blanched in boiling water for a couple minutes.
Unlike many other vegetables, eggplants can only be consumed after being cooked. Raw, they contains solanine which if eaten can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting – so perhaps their bitter raw unpleasantness is not without reason!
Roasted Sicilian Eggplant & Cherry Tomatoes with Basil
10-12 Perlina eggplants, stems removed and halved lengthwise (300 g)
10 vine-ripened Roma cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
freshly grated parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
2. Brush eggplants all over with oil, transfer to a large casserole dish or roasting tin.
3. Add tomatoes halves and thyme. Toss gently to combine.
4. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
5. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until golden and tender. Transfer to a serving plate.
6. Garnish with parmesan and top with the fresh basil. Serve immediately.