Monday, July 16, 2012

Keys to Great Eggplant

Egglant with tahini (Hatzil v'tehina in Hebrew) is my Israeli claim to fame. My hummus might taste too Ashkenazi, I don't like to make shnitzel (fried, breaded, flattened chicken breast), and I've only recently started making shakshuka. But I would be proud to serve my eggplant to any native Israeli.  I have posted about this before (Eggplant & Tehina), and I've made some very good and very bad eggplant since then. I've gotten cocky, skipped steps, and learned the hard way that there are a few rules you shouldn't forget.

1. Salt the eggplant for at least 20 minutes. Unless you are dealing with the youngest of the skinny, light purple Japanese Eggplants, you should slice the eggplant and salt it very generously before any additional prep. This draws out moisture and bitter flavors and tenderizes the eggplant. Use the flaky kosher salt, or any salt that will stick. The eggplant will sweat. I often do this in the morning and leave it out for a couple hours while I prepare other things.  Then rinse it and blot try with paper towels or a tea towel.

2. Do not save the juices. The liquid that comes out of the eggplant while it cooks contains unpleasant flavors. It is best to cook the eggplant in a way that lets most of these flavors drip away. If you have a grill, use it. If not, you may use a grill pan or broiler pan. Lately, I have been making my own disposable grill pan by folding or twisting strips of aluminum foil and laying them out parallel on a larger pan to hold the eggplant off the pan and out of it's juices. I have made excellent eggplant without this step, but I find this is like broiler insurance. If you cook it in a flat pan it is good to put the cooked eggplant in a place where some of the liquid can drip off before you season and serve it.



3. Oil. I'm not sure if this step is vital, so I left it last. However, I get the best results by coating all surfaces of the eggplant with olive oil before it goes in the oven.

If you want to learn more about eggplant, watch the Good Eats Episode "Deep Purple" and check out my complete instructions for making Eggplant & Tahini.

3 comments:

  1. Great! Do you have any ideas for those cute little round babies that are in the shuk now? (Ours, at least).

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  2. It's SO hot; I haven't been to the shuk in a while. Do you eat meat? I bet they would be good stuffed with ground beef rice, fried onions, tomatoes... Then grill or roast them, maybe even partially submerged in tomato sauce. The stuff you pull out of the middle you could stir fry and put it on top of pasta.

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  3. That sounds like a great idea, thanks!

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