Frozen certified organic eggplant was a new addition to the Locavorious community freezer during the harvest of 2013. The big thank you goes out to Lester Coblentz of Coblentz Acres for urging us to give it a try, creating a win-win situation for Locavorious members and the Coblentz family farm. This certified organic farm located in the Amish community of Homer, Michigan had a banner year for eggplant. Coblentz Acres also had a large pre-order for eggplant from a grocery store, then the grocer backed out after the eggplants had already begun bearing fruit. When Lester told us about this unfortunate situation, Rena and a few Locavorious kitchen team members quickly started experimenting at home with the best ways to preserve eggplant via freezing.
Although many preservation books recommend oven roasting eggplant with oil before freezing, we found that technique dried out the eggplant, while a steam blanch better preserved its soft texture. Like apples and peaches, some browning of eggplant occurs right after slicing, so if you plan to preserve eggplant at home this coming summer, we recommend placing it in a bath of either vitamin C powder and water or lemon juice and water immediately after slicing, and immediately following blanching.
We found that frozen eggplant worked well in hearty recipes. When combined with Locavorious frozen summer squash and tomatoes, it resulted in wonderful ratatouille. Eggplant pairs well with many flavors and cuisines – Mediterranean, Indian, Western and Asian seasonings. Here’s a recipe adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe on the Food Network for stir-fried Szechwan eggplant.
12 oz eggplant slices, partially thawed
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, thinly sliced
¾ cup frozen peas
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced on a diagonal
1 -inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh red chile, sliced, or 1 T diced frozen hot peppers, or 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Cilantro leaves and/or Thai basil, for garnish
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high flame and add the oils; tilt the pan to coat all sides. When oil starts to get hot, add the green onions, carrots, ginger, garlic, and chile pepper; stir-fry for a minute until fragrant. Add the eggplant (add carefully if it’s still frozen.) Stir fry until the eggplant is heated through, and mixed into the spices. Add the broth and peas, and cook another couple minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and cook another minute, until the sauce has thickened. Garnish with sesame seeds, Thai basil, and cilantro and serve.