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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eggplant (not)Parmesan and How to Choose an Eggplant!

This vegan, gluten free dish is 'cheesy', rich, and satisfying without added fat, cholesterol, or unnecessary calories!

Eggplant can be very delicious, but it all begins with knowing how to buy eggplant. Pick badly and you will end up with a bitter vegetable that will only confirm the belief some hold that these are terrible things to eat.  If you choose wisely in the produce department or at the Farmer's Market, there is no need for the step known as "sweating" the eggplant by soaking in salt water or by sprinkling with salt and allowing to sit for 10 minutes before preparing any recipes. Buy correctly and skip all that!
I have updated this information from previously erroneous information that the difference between the eggplant was "sex",  but I stand corrected (thank you Brian D.) that there is no such thing as gender in fruit. (Yes eggplant is technically a fruit) The seeds are what can make your eggplant bitter, and ruin your whole dish.  You want to buy only less mature eggplant!  The less mature eggplants have fewer and smaller seeds, and are therefore less bitter than mature eggplants.  To determine the maturity of an eggplant, look at the blossom end (opposite of the stem end) where you will see an indentation at bottom.  If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it's a more mature eggplant and will be filled with seeds that lend bitterness to the vegetable.  If it's shallow and round, it's perfect! 

 See the photo below, the less mature (SWEET) is on the left, more mature  (BITTER) on the right. 

Here are the sliced eggplants side by side so you can see the “seedy” mature one on the left as it compares to the less mature one on the right. 

There are also a few other factors to consider when shopping eggplant:
  • ·         In general, the bigger the eggplant, the more bitter it will be. Look for smaller sizes, about the length of your hand to get the best flavors. Smaller eggplants are usually less mature and less bitter. 
  • ·         Look for shiny, violet-purple eggplant. If an eggplant is dark, nearly black, it is old and likely to be bitter.
  • ·         A fresh eggplant should be heavy, from the water inside. An old eggplant is dehydrated, lightweight, and will be bitter.  Also, you should be able to squeeze it and the flesh should give slightly. It will feel like squeezing a ripe orange. If the flesh doesn’t spring back, then the eggplant is too old. If it is hard, it is unripe, do not choose it. 
  • ·         Freshness is important, so don't store them for very long. Eggplants are very perishable and become bitter with age. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a day or two of purchase. To store in the refrigerator, place in a plastic bag. If you plan to cook it the same day you buy it, leave it out at room temperature.
  • ·         Eggplants are sensitive to ethylene, formed naturally from certain other produce, so store away from fruits especially, or use "Green Bags" which absorb ethylene.
  • ·         The skin of a fresh eggplant is edible if cooked thoroughly, and contains vital nutrients and phytochemicals from that beautiful rich color that you don’t want to miss out on! So wash and slice, don’t peel!


Now for the delicious and easy eggplant recipe.  I had the ingredients in the kitchen and threw this together, and it turned out delicious! I have mentioned before that we have an omnivore living with us. "P" is not so sure about all this veggie eating stuff, and has never tried anything like this in all of her 41 years, but she not only tried this, she liked it! So without further adieu, I present an omnivore-approved dish that I call:

Eggplant (Not)-Parmesan

·         2 medium eggplants, washed and cut into sliced about ¼ inch thick
·         ½ cup all purpose gluten free flour
·         ½ cup of my Cashew Cheeze Sauce dry mix - (you might could try just using Nutritional Yeast Flakes in a pinch but it will not be the same)
·         2 tsp. Rosemary
·         2 tsp. basil
·         2 Tbsp. Himalayan or Sea Salt (or to taste)
·  1 48 oz. jar Marinara (spaghetti) sauce of choice (without hydrogenated oils!)

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.   Coat eggplant in gluten free flour.
3.   Put a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 “ pan.
4.   Add a layer of flour-coated eggplant slices.
5.   Sprinkle dry cheese sauce mix over top.
6.   Sprinkle rosemary, salt, & basil over all.
7.   Add a layer of spaghetti sauce, be sure to coat all eggplant.
8.   Repeat layers until all ingredients are used.
9.   Bake @ 350 degrees for 1 hour.



  1. I really needed this information! Thank you! I very rarely eat eggplant (aubergine) because I've it's always tasted bitter to me. Armed with this information, I'll be able to choose better!

  2. You are so welcome!
    I hope the shopping for eggplant goes better for you now, and you can enjoy eggplant dishes at last!

  3. Thanks for the info on how to buy an eggplant. I have a question though, you say to always buy a male eggplant but the Eggplant (Not)-Parmesan recipe calls for female eggplant. Is this correct? Can't wait to try the recipe. Thanks!

  4. Oh, my goodness! Thanks for finding the typo! Of course, the recipe should call for MALE eggplant, we don't want the bitter ones! I have corrected the recipe, thanks for your keen eye!

    1. Shelly, thanks for the reply. I will be attempting to try this recipe within the next week. Bought my male eggplant today :-)

  5. Shelly, thank you 4 eggplant & cheezy recipes! :) I made the recipe gir' :) its' in the oven as I type! So looking forward 2 eat eggplants! I'm gluten free coming on 4 yrs & vegan 6 mos., learning from all my bloggers on my new lifestyle! God bless u ! :) <3 lydia

  6. I am very happy to share recipes, and the journey, with you! Let me know how you like it :)

  7. There is no such thing as a male or female eggplant, as it is (botanically speaking) a fruit. The number of seeds and their size, which leads to how noticeable they are, depend on the fruits maturity when picked. When picked less mature, even if from the same plant, the seeds will be less developed and there will be fewer of them. Hence being less noticeable. Differences in the indentation on the bottom (how people "sex" them) are also a result of this, with those picked more mature being deeper. This is not to say that the information about selecting them is not helpful or correct (it is), just that calling them male and female is not. We don't want to reinforce false tales about eggplant, do we?... Sorry to get all ranty, but as a biologist and an ex grocery store produce clerk these this sort of false information really bugs me.

  8. Made this again tonight. It was delish! Thanks again for such a wonderful recipe!


Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear what you think!
~ Shelley