Eggplants have a long and interesting history. Native to Southeast Asia, they were first domesticated 4,000 years ago in Pakistan and India. You can read more about this fascinating vegetable in A Brief History of Eggplant. All over the world, eggplant is featured in specialty dishes for certain countries: Caponata in Italy, Moussaka in Greece, Ratatouille in France, and Baba Ghanoush in Israel and throughout the Mideast.

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that is low in carbohydrates and fat-free when prepared in a healthy manner. Baking eggplant is a wonderful, and easy, way to cook this purple wonder.

Here is a very simple and delicious way to prepare baked eggplant. First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, cut the stem off of the end of the eggplant. Take a fork and make several piercings on the skin, all around the vegetable. This will prevent the eggplant from exploding while it bakes. Using olive oil, lightly grease a baking dish, and put the whole eggplant in the dish.

Oven roast the eggplant until the meat inside is tender and the eggplant looks like it is collapsing on itself. Use a fork to test the consistency. If you are cooking a large eggplant , it will obviously take longer than if you are cooking a small one. Generally, cooking time is about 45 minutes to an hour. By the way, smaller eggplants tend to be sweeter and more delicate, while larger ones more bitter stronger tasting.

When the eggplant is done, remove the baking dish from the oven and wait until the eggplant cools, so that you can handle it. The skin will be easy to peel off. You can then chop, slice, or blend the eggplant, depending on the recipe you are following.

For starters, try mashing the baked eggplant with fresh garlic, salt, lemon juice, and a little mayonnaise for a delicious dip. Or, scoop out the meat of the eggplant, mix with tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, and salt for another delicious dip or pasta topping. The possibilities are endlessly delicious.

When you buy eggplants, look for those that are firm and unmarked, with smooth and shiny skins. Choose eggplants with the stem still on and make sure the stem is not dried out. In addition to baking eggplant, you can broil, sautee, or boil the vegetable. Make sure, though, that you thoroughly cook eggplant. It needs to be very soft and well-cooked for its taste to be at its best.

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