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Eggplant Sautéed with Balsamic Vinegar
By Charlie Burke

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We grew thin oriental eggplant this year. Perhaps the wet spring and
subsequent heat combined for a bumper crop; for whatever reason, we enjoyed
them throughout the second half of the summer. They were sweet and needed
none of the salting and draining suggested in most recipes for eggplant, which I
think are needed only for large and over ripe fruit. Buy fresh, locally grown
eggplant. You will know it has been recently picked if there are sharp
needle-like spikes near the stem.

A friend said she loves eggplant but has only two time consuming recipes for
its preparation: eggplant Parmesan and stuffed eggplant. I find no reason to
treat this delicious vegetable differently from any other. It can be steamed like
carrots and beets or sautéed in oil or butter as are potatoes, zucchini or squash.
Its great flavor goes well with lamb, beef, poultry or pork, and vegetarians
know it makes a meal with rice, salad and bread.

A few years ago we rented a house in Lucca, which is northern Tuscany. We
traveled to Modena where balsamic vinegar is made and bought bottles of
twelve and twenty-five year old balsamic vinegar for ourselves and for family.
These have a mellow, caramel like flavor and a sweetness not found in other
vinegars, and, reduced in a sauté pan, can bring  vegetables to new levels. In
many gourmet food stores an array of aged balsamic vinegar are sold, but one
can buy less expensive balsamic vinegars and approximate the flavor of the
more expensive vinegars by heating them and adding one to two tablespoons
of dark brown sugar to a cup of industrial balsamic vinegar.

Four vegetable sides:

8 small or 2 larger eggplants
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Slice small eggplants lengthwise in half; larger eggplants should be cut
crosswise. Lightly salt and pepper the slices and heat a sauté pan over
medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, and when it shimmers add eggplant.
Add balsamic vinegar. Lower heat to medium and cook, covered, until
eggplant is slightly soft.

Serve the eggplant hot with a main course or at room temperature with a salad
or as and appetizer. The sweetness of the reduced vinegar, combined with the
mellow eggplant results in an intensely flavored late summer New England
dish.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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