In New Zealand we have a beautiful array of fresh vegetables throughout the year. Countless families across the country enjoy broccoli, cabbage, kumara, rocket, celery, green beans, spinach and a range of other healthy plants on their dinner plates each night. But when it comes to cooking eggplant many veggie cooks look nervously for the nearest exit.
Eggplant – Don’t be Frightened
The fear of cooking eggplant, though, is groundless. By following the simple tips below you’ll be able to turn this “problem” vegetable into a versatile and delicious new addition to your dinner menu.
There are a number of different types of eggplant including Italian, Japanese, Indian and Chinese varieties. The larger, more robust globe eggplant is, however, the most common eggplant you’re likely to find in your local supermarket.
The larger size of the globe eggplant makes it more versatile than some of the smaller varieties as it can be both sliced and cubed as well as cooked whole.
Buying Globe Eggplant
When buying a globe eggplant choose one that has lustrous, unwrinkled skin. Squeeze it lightly – does it feel firm? Does the skin bounce back? If it does you’re probably onto a winner.
When you get your eggplant home and cut it open you can further check you’ve got a vegetable that will give you a pleasant eating experience. The flesh should be pale and there should not be many seeds. Dark splotches in the flesh and a lot of seeds indicate poor texture and lousy taste.
The two common problems with cooking eggplant are that it can taste bitter and that it can absorb too much oil. Proper preparation, however, will overcome both of these conditions.
That lovely purple skin, while attractive to look at, can be tough, so unless you plan to roast your eggplant whole, peeling the skin from the flesh is recommended.
By salting, or “purging” your eggplant you’ll remove the juices that make it bitter. You’ll also be slightly desiccating and compressing the flesh so that it will not soak up too much oil.
To purge your eggplant, peel it, cut it into chunks or slices, salt liberally on all sides and place in a colander for an hour. The salt will draw out those bitter juices.
Rinse the eggplant thoroughly in cold water and press dry between a clean cloth. Don’t be afraid to be firm- by using plenty of pressure you’ll be forcing out more liquid and compressing the flesh to a greater extent.
Note: you can speed the salting process by placing a plate on top of the salted eggplant while it’s in the colander and weighting it with something heavy. In effect, you’re creating an eggplant press that will squeeze the juice out faster.
You’ve purged, now you want to know how to cook your eggplant. There are a number of alternatives and all of them are simple and quick.
When whole roasting you need to prevent your eggplant falling apart so in this instance don’t peel it. Instead, cut a number of slits in the skin, insert a clove of garlic into each, drizzle the skin with olive oil and bake on a roasting dish for 35 minutes at 180˚C or until the eggplant has collapsed.
Remove from the oven, peel and serve the flesh as you wish – whole-roasted eggplant is great cubed, mashed or pureed.
Lightly brush slices of prepared eggplant with oil and grill under a medium flame for about 8 minutes each side.
Frying is the method that most requires thorough preparation, neglect it and your eggplant will still be porous and soak up too much oil.
Slice your eggplant and place it in very hot oil. Turn regularly to prevent burning and remove when the flesh is golden brown. Be sure not to overload your pan as this will prevent proper frying.
Delicious and Versatile
When peeled, purged and cooked correctly, eggplant is a delicious food that’s sure to be a hit with your family. Follow the how to cook eggplant tips above and you’ll be confident with this versatile vegetable in no time.
To learn how to cook eggplant with garlic sauce check out this video.