"Hansel" eggplants are a new hybrid of the larger eggplant most know. Its modest size and early maturity make it perfect for container gardening, and it does not get bitter when overripe. The fruit are small and slender, with a beautiful purple color. The only notable flaw of the Hansel, for culinary purposes, is that the skin becomes tough when the fruit are overripe.
Roasting Hansel Eggplants
Rinse the eggplants under cold running water, and dry them with a clean paper towel. Lay the eggplants on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and puncture them several times with a sharp knife. This vents steam as they roast, and prevents the eggplants from exploding.
Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until the eggplants are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, approximately 15 minutes depending on size. They will collapse somewhat as they cook, which is normal for any eggplant.
Cool the roasted eggplants slightly, until they can be handled. Slice and serve hot, or cool to room temperature for marinating or other preparations.
Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh with a spoon, if the fruit were mature when picked. Use the flesh of older Hansels for dishes like baba ganouj, which do not use the skin.
Grilling Hansel Eggplants
Use a vegetable peeler to remove half of the skin in long narrow strips, leaving the eggplant with long stripes. This makes for an attractive appearance, and provides contrasting textures when grilled.
Slice the eggplants lengthwise into long strips, or crosswise into small rounds. Toss the pieces in a bowl with a small amount of oil -- dependant on how many eggplants you are cooking, but just enough to lightly coat -- or lay them out on a baking sheet and spray both sides with vegetable-oil pan spray.
Season the eggplants lightly with salt and pepper. Place them on a preheated grill, orienting them on an angle so the grill's bars make attractive diagonal lines. When the lines are well marked, move the eggplants 90 degrees to create a second set of marks, criss-crossing the first.
When the undersides of the slices are well marked, turn the eggplants and finish cooking. They will require only a few minutes on each side. Very small, tender Hansels may be grilled whole or halved, rather than sliced.
Remove the eggplants from the grill. Serve them hot, or cool them for use in other dishes.
Peel mature Hansels more aggressively, leaving only narrow strips of the purple skin as a visual accent. Once peeled, prepare them in the same fashion as younger Hansels.
- Bonnie Plants: Hansel Eggplant
- "A New Book of Middle Eastern Food"; Claudia Roden; 1985
- Some recipes call for eggplants to be salted and drained before use. This is not necessary with Hansels, which do not become bitter when mature.
- Mature Hansels may be halved and stuffed, making a virtue of the signature tough skin. They will hold together better than most other cultivars, when transferred from a baking sheet to the serving plate.
- Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries have especially rich traditions of eggplant cookery. Look for cookbooks by specialists in these regions, such as Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Anissa Helou and Clifford Wright.
- Plant Hansel's white-skinned sibling, Gretel, and use the two to provide visual contrast in your eggplant dishes.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.