Introduction to Eggplant 

Melanzana – Milinjiani or Milinciani 

 

There are many varieties of eggplant in various shapes, colors and sizes. They may be round, elongated or oval; purple-black to white; weighting from one ounce to five pounds. Native to India, the eggplant was cultivated in Asia—specifically, the white variety that was very common and grows to the size of an egg, hence the name eggplant.

 

White Eggplants

The eggplant, or baadenjaan in Arabic, was introduced to the western world around the year 750 by the Moorish invaders of the Iberia Peninsula. It was then called berenjena or berenjela.

 

Soon after, it was brought to Sicily by the Arabs, where it was named milinjiana (milinciana in Palermo's dialect). This name is not a derivation from al- baadenjaan, like the French aubergine. It comes instead from the botanical name Solanum Melongena (melon means apple and gena means plant), which refers to the shape of a certain variety of the fruit, resembling an apple. In Italian, milinjiana evolved into melenzana and was incorrectly translated into English as mad apple (mela, apple; insana, a false cognate for insane). 

  

 

Baby EggplantsItalian-American Eggplant

 

So, yes, the eggplant is a fruit of the berry family; yet the bitter, spongy flesh cannot be eaten raw. Eggplants are versatile and used as condiment to various pasta dishes or preserved in oil to compliment sandwiches. The caponatina, bracioli and croquettes are delicious as an appetizer or side dish. As a main course, consider the tasty eggplant parmiciana, also known as parmigiana, cutlets or miniature eggplants stuffed with cheese, garlic, mint, salt and pepper and cooked in tomato sauce. 

 

What should you know about buying and storing eggplants? The lighter fruits are milder in flavor and the darker ones have a stronger taste. Fresh-picked eggplants are less bitter than stored eggplants. Choose the smallest and the heaviest. Make sure the color is uniform, the skin is tight and there are no blemishes or wrinkles.

Do not refrigerate for too long, as that will dehydrate the flesh (which is primarily made of water). Long storage makes it bitter.  

 

The most popular varieties in the markets are:  

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GreenEggplant


 

·         Italian-American Eggplants. Large with dark purple skin  

·         Italian Baby Eggplants. Small, deep purple skin, delicate flesh  

·         Louisiana Long Green, or Applegreen. Good for broiling, sweet  

·         Florida Market. Large to medium, oval, glossy dark black  

 

  

   

 

 

Eggplant Recipes  

 

Appetizers:

Sweet and Sour Eggplant Salad – Caponatina
Stuffed Eggplants Beccafico with Lemon Sauce
Rolled Eggplants with Cheese and Salami - a Bracioli
 
Croquettes of Eggplants – Polpette Fritte
Grilled Eggplants- Melenzane alla griglia
Eggplants Vinaigrette – Melenzane all’ Agro
Eggplants Preserved in Oil – Melenzane sott’Olio  

 

Pasta:

Spaghetti with Eggplants – Palermo Style
Baked Penne with Eggplants, Pasta ‘ncasciata – Messina Style
Eggplants, Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata Cheese – Catania Style
Spaghettini Eggplant and Ricotta Salata – Trapani Style 
 

 

Main Dishes or in Small Portions as a Side Dish:

Baked Eggplant with Tomato and Cheese – Parmiciana
Breaded or Battered Eggplants – a Cotoletta

Fried Quail’s Style – a Quagghia 
Miniature Eggplant Stuffed and Cooked in Tomato Sauce – Abbuttunati