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Preparing Eggplant for Cooking

by Mary Sacks

Whole and Sliced Eggplant

Getting rid of the bitterness.

First, what are the issues?  While most eggplants these days are bred to be less bitter, every once in a while you may still get one that is. The reason for this is likely because it's old. Young, fresh eggplants that you purchase at the farmers market are rarely bitter because they're newly picked. The longer the eggplant sits after being harvested, the chances of it becoming bitter grow, which is why your highest chance of purchasing a bitter vegetable is at the grocery store, especially out of season, when it's been you have no idea how long it's been sitting around.

  1. Soak in milk. Why? The milk-like every other strategy draws out the bitterness and the eggplant soaks the milk up like a sponge. If you are going to saute/fry the eggplant, the milk will take up the room in the nooks and crannies of the eggplant so the oil you are using won’t seep in.
  2. You could use water instead of milk, but the milk will make the eggplant taste richer. I’ve even used soy milk with good results.
  3. Salting. It does work, but you are still going to have to rinse with water to eliminate all the salt you just sprinkled on.
  4. Removing the seeds. The seeds are the bitterest part of the eggplant.  If I decide to go this route, I will use a Tomato Shark. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this utensil, it is a must in your toolkit.  Good for more than tomatoes. One look at this gadget and you will know why. If you pay more than a couple of dollars for this tool, you have been robbed.Tomato Shark  / Tomato Corer

Preventing the eggplant from absorbing too much oil.

We have some repeating going on here.

  1. Brush the oil on the eggplant. Instead of putting the oil in the pan, brush it on the eggplant. This way you will have more control over how much you use. Brush one side, add it to the pan and cook a few minutes. Flip the eggplant and brush the other side.
  2. Microwave the eggplant. Before cooking the eggplant in a pan, give it a whirl in the microwave on a paper towel in a single layer on a plate for about 4 minutes. What it does. The process collapses the spongey structure so that there is no room for the oil to seep in.
  3. Sweat the Eggplant. Yes, the salt thing. While we don't necessarily need to salt eggplant to cut the bitterness anymore, this does work to help prevent it from absorbing so much oil. Sweating works to collapse the eggplant's structure, as the salt draws moisture out of its cells, which then fills the air pockets. With the air pockets full of moisture, there's not as much room for the oil to soak in.
  4. Soaking the eggplant in milk. Sound familiar? Allow me to explain. While microwaving and salting the eggplant work to collapse the fruit's porous structure, this method takes the opposite approach. Soaking slices or cubes off eggplant in milk fills the porous structure studded with air pockets with milk, leaving no room for oil to be absorbed.



Mary Sacks
Mary Sacks

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