The eggplant is known by many names, aubergine (petite eggplant variety) in France, and Brinjal in India and Singapore. Melongene is a less common British English word. It is known as an eggplant in the Unites States and Canada. Variations on the names vary worldwide.
Studies have shown that eggplant can reduce high blood cholesterol and contains potent antioxidants and free radical scavengers that protect cell membranes and act as anti cancer agents.
This post was written for Father's Day but before I knew it I fell deep into the research abyss. Jonathan loves anything eggplant, brushed with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, roasted to a glistening golden hue or grilled, with a crisscross pattern, to perfection. Charred and sliced into halfway lengthwise, with the flesh mixed with tahini, fresh garlic and lemon as baba ganoush, sometimes garnished with pomegranate arils when in season. Today I wanted to highlight an Indian preparation of eggplant similar to tampura. This is one of the ways my mom prepped eggplant, though I don't often cook it this way, I thought it would be a pleasant twist and surprise for Jonathan on this Father's Day.
Speaking of dads, I am already tearing up as I am writing this, mine passed away in January 2007. I haven't been back to Israel since. My sweet almost 20 year old kid went on his first group trip to Israel with his buddies from UMASS. Even though he has traveled to Israel many times in the past with us, this trip has had a profound impact on him. I have barely spoken to him during his 10 days with the group, but once I caught him while they were at the Western Wall after a tour of Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Museum, he said he broke down. He fell apart at not being there when my dad passed away and fell apart for not yet visiting his grave site. Visiting the holy places and the Holocaust museum brought on all those overwhelming emotions. He is a good kid. Went with my mom, who is very frail, to the cemetery, while staying an extra week to visit with family, fetched water to wash the head stone and said Kaddish. Made my mom and am sure my dad as well, happy!
Tip: Pick a firm eggplant with a smooth skin and a green stem as shown in the photo. The browner the stem is, the less farm fresh the eggplant is. I find the ones I buy lack the bitterness prevalent to eggplants and therefore I skip the steps of salting the eggplant slices, letting them sweat sitting at room temperature, rinsing and drying them to extract the bitterness out. If you wish a sweeter, creamier variety which I like as well. buy the Italian eggplants, they are similar to the one photographed, only smaller. Jonathan doesn't like that variety as much but I like them both. Oddly enough I am not a fan of the small globe like Indian variety, you find in Asian markets, being Indian myself.
I usually like to work with a thinner batter by adding more water but the consistency below is easier to work with. You can add finely chopped cilantro to the batter or jalapeno you ran through a food processor or finely diced. You could even add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda of you wish for a crispier, crunchier feel to the Indian fritter. As always, I recommend you leave your signature on it and make it your own!
*Please note all information here is from research I've conducted, but I am not by any stretch an expert. Please consult a doctor about the benefits of eggplant as well as allergic and other adverse reactions.
Eggplant Fritters in Chickpea Flour Batter
Makes 14 fritters
1 medium eggplant (14 oz/400 gr)
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup water
3/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder or Kashmiri red pepper powder
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
In a medium bowl add the batter ingredients and whisk with a small whisk into a smooth consistency. In a skillet or a frying pan heat up the oil on medium high. Cut stem and bottom off the eggplant and slice into 14 equal rounds, slightly less than 1/2 an inch each. Dip in batter and coat well. Let excess batter drip back into the batter bowl while holding the eggplant from one edge over the bowl and fry. Adjust heat to medium if necessary and fry until deep golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel lined plate.
Cook's note: The oil will be enough and some for the entire batch. Keep the oil on medium high heat and adjust to medium if necessary. It is traditionally deep fried but I find this method works very well and produces identical results with less oil.