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Use eggplant in recipes that are ‘pure heaven’

By: Martha Garcia, Gold Country News Service
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“There’s more than one way to cook an eggplant,” said Gordon Poulsen, the featured eggplant grower for Saturday’s Eggplant Festival in Loomis. Poulsen, of Willow Creek Ranch in Penryn, was referring to eggplant parmesan, the classic go-to recipe. And, he said, there are many different varieties of eggplant that can be cooked in an assortment of recipes. Poulsen suggests using eggplant in a casserole of pasta mixed with eggplant, or fried eggplant drenched in cornmeal and eaten fresh from the skillet. You can also let the fried eggplant cool and use it in an eggplant sandwich. “I’ve heard that people make soup with it, too, but I’ve never seen the recipe,” he said. Poulsen said once he found there’s a demand for eggplant at farmers markets, he started enlarging his eggplant production. “There’s probably over 300 plants now … over 15 varieties … that I’m experimenting to see which customers like the best, and I like the best, as far as growing.” As a commercial grower, Poulsen said, he has to consider the production, taste, and the ease or difficulty of growing the different varieties. “I try to achieve a happy balance of good production and taste,” he said. One of Poulsen’s favorites is the Japanese-style eggplant, which he said he likes for its taste and ease and versatility in cooking. This eggplant, he said, has a thin skin, unlike the other that you have to peel to use. The traditional large eggplant (Black Beauties, which are deep black in color) are very good in casseroles and to fry with batter. The Japanese style, however, can be used for frying, baking and, when cut lengthwise into slabs, in grilling. “You add a little olive oil, grill on the barbecue until soft, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and it’s pure heaven,” he said. Eggplant come in varieties from the very round, about 8 inches in diameter and which look like a small bowling ball, to the very large that grow to over 3 pounds and are the traditional bell shape. “I also have the very smallest,” Poulsen said, “called Fairy Tales, are only 2 inches in length, skinny and grow in little ‘hands’ or clusters.” Eggplant colors are varied, too, from deep black to violet purples, to white, which add to the plant’s beauty and make it another reason to grow eggplant in a flower garden, Poulsen said. “Edible landscape should be a part of everyone’s plan,” he said. “People can have a lovely flower garden and also enjoy the rewards of the fruits.” To pick up fresh eggplant and other produce from Willow Creek Ranch, visit Poulsen in the Blue Goose Produce booth on Saturday. __________ 23rd annual Eggplant Festival When: Vendor booths open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; opening ceremonies at 8:45 a.m. Where: Loomis Train Depot, Horseshoe Bar and Taylor roads Breakfast: 7-10 a.m. at Loomis Fire Station Cost: Free admission, parking