When made right, eggplant can be silky and sweet (or golden and crisp). We enjoy it in so many great dishes such as caponata, eggplant parmesan and ratatouille. But when we try to recreate those recipes at home, more often than not, it just doesn't come out right. And there's only one reason for this: eggplant is just tricky to cook.
And when it's not cooked right, eggplant tastes terrible. The most common complaints are that eggplant is too greasy, bitter, tough or watery. Most of the time, this is resolved by taking one crucial step: salting the eggplant before cooking it. Click through the slideshow below to see how to solve your eggplant troubles.
Just like mushrooms, eggplants have a tendency to absorb a ton of liquid. (And when that liquid is oil, you get a greasy eggplant). The best thing you can do to avoid this result is to salt the eggplant. Salting collapses the air pockets in the eggplant's sponge-like flesh making it less prone to absorbing liquid.
If you're eggplant is bitter it's probably too mature. The bigger the eggplant, the more bitter it will be. The best way to get rid of this unpleasant flavor is to salt the eggplant. The salt draws out moisture, making the eggplant "sweat," which also draws out the bitterness.
To avoid watery eggplant you need to salt it, drain it and squeeze it. Salting draws moisture out of the eggplant. When you rinse the salt off, liquid can sneak back in so it's important to properly squeeze the eggplant before cooking it.
If you've properly cooked your eggplant and it still came out tough, chances are it was too mature. Try to stay away from the big eggplants, since generally the largest ones have been left on the vine too long. Also, be sure to use one that is firm to the touch and smooth.
If your eggplant is too salty you need to rinse it more thoroughly after salting it. Salting eggplant is an important step in properly cooking it, however, it's important to also rinse off all the salt and squeeze any excess moisture out.
The older the eggplant the more pith it will have. To avoid an overly pithy dish, look for small, firm eggplants.
Remedy: How To Prep An Eggplant
-Depending on the dish, peel, slice or dice the eggplant. -Place the eggplant in a colander and generously salt it. -Allow the eggplant to sit for 20 to 60 minutes. You'll notice beads of "sweat" start to form. This is the salt drawing out the eggplant's excess (and sometimes bitter) moisture. This process also collapses the air pockets in the eggplant's sponge-like flesh making it less prone to absorbing liquid. -Remove the salt. You can do so by wiping it with a paper towel or rinsing it under water. If you rinse it under water, be sure to squeeze the eggplant before cooking to remove any possibly absorbed water. -It's now ready to cook with.
Choosing the Right Eggplant
Chef Radha Tabak shows how to select the right eggplant.
Related on HuffPost: