People tend to either love or hate eggplant, and often the hate comes from never having tasted it correctly prepared. Once you know the trick to how to cook eggplant, it’s a very healthy, filling veggie you can even use as a substitute for meats.
How to pick the right eggplant
You need to start with the right produce. Here’s how:
- The color should be a deep, glossy purple. Some grocers use wax to keep veggies shiny, but if you hold it up to the light, you can learn to tell the difference between healthy shiny veggie skin and the dull shine of wax.
- The stems and caps should be green, not brownish.
- It should be heavy. When you gently squeeze it, it should yield a little bit but not much. You don’t want it to be so firm it’s dried out, nor so soft that’s it’s mushy.
- Avoid plants with “rust” spots (green or brown spots), or shriveling, worm holes or other bruises.
- The best plants are usually about 3 to 6 inches long. The plumper they are, the juicier they’ll be, which is great for baking. Long and slender are less juicy and may be better for frying.
How to Cook Eggplant
Eggplant has an enzyme which can make it taste bitter in a dish. But luckily there’s a trick. Here are some prep steps on how to cook eggplant so you’ll never have that problem.
- Slice or cube the eggplant, with or without the skin on.
- Spread it across a baking tray or other surface and salt it with kosher salt. Let it sit that way for at least 20 minutes.
- Blot off the salt and excess liquid. Now the bitter enzymes are neutralized and all you’ll taste is that nutty, earthy, delicious flavor.
- Baked eggplant parmesan. The classic Italian eggplant dish, but baked instead of fried. This is a fairly easy recipe, which includes the sauce. It’s a good introductory dish if you’ve never had eggplant, or are trying to learn to like it. The flavor of the eggplant blends in nicely with the other ingredients.
- Baba Ghanoush is absolutely one of my favorite uses for eggplant. It’s Middle Eastern eggplant and tahini sauce for dipping bread. And it’s vegan.
- Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine. Eggplant, mozzarella, red pepper and parsley, chilled together terrine style.
- Ratatouille. Eggplant, zucchini and tomato baked together with a lovely seasoned tomato sauce.
- Eggplant olive sauce and Emily’s Super Eggplant Sauce both make great, filling replacements for meat-based spaghetti sauces (Emily’s will retain more eggplant flavor than the eggplant olive sauce).
- This recipe called Eggplant Salad is more of a dip or sauce than a salad (though I could eat spoonfuls of it). Note the comments which mention this recipe cooks down more than you might expect and use bigger portions.
- EatingWell offers a whole list of healthy eggplant recipes.
Remember, too, that a simple piece of grilled eggplant can replace meat on a sandwich.
Originally published September 16, 2010