Eggplant just isn’t on our food radar in the states, and I think it’s because we don’t know how to prepare it well. So I’m going to share with you just one tip that completely changed the way I feel about eggplant. And just maybe you’ll start to love it too!
I can remember eating eggplant a couple of times before living in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2010. I ordered eggplant parmesan once – an oily fried mess that didn’t have enough red sauce to tame the eggplant’s overpowering zing in the back of my throat. I also tried it in a vegetable lasagna where eggplant took the place of the noodles – a travesty at that point in my life. Luckily there was enough cheese, sauce, and sweet onions to block out the eggplant.
But when I moved to Moldova I loooooooved eating eggplant. It was prepared in the most delicious sauces, salads, appetizers, and more in a variety of ways – roasted, fried, sautéed, and baked. What was the difference? I learned that whoever the cook, she/he never missed the opportunity to drain it. Eggplant can taste bitter and that’s because it’s quite acidic. Draining the eggplant releases the excess moisture along with the bitterness.
Roasting the eggplant whole:
Roast the eggplant as directed. Remove and carefully cut 3-4 inch (7-10 cm) slits in the base of the eggplant, leaving the base intact. I usually stick my knife all the way through the eggplant and cut down 3 inches and then turn to do the other side, making 4 total slits. Then you’ll place it in a bowl sitting upright on its base, allowing it to drain. After 30 minutes discard the liquid and repeat. Depending on the eggplant you may need to do this just once or several times. The more brown liquid you can discard the less bitter the eggplant will taste.
Cutting the eggplant before baking or sautéing:
Cut the raw eggplant as your recipe indicates and add the pieces to a bowl with 1-2 tsp salt (about 1 1/2 tsp per eggplant). Depending on your slices, you’ll either mix well with your hands or rub it in. You want to make sure your salt is incorporated well because this is what will release the moisture from the eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Discard the brown liquid and repeat. Again, the more brown liquid you can discard the better the eggplant will taste. Lightly rinse the eggplant and drain.
Some of my favorite sauces, spreads, and salads in Moldova were prepared with eggplant. The spongy texture, robust flavor, and soft seeds make it a perfect trifecta in any sauce. What are your favorite eggplant dishes? Do you have any special tips to share with us?