Saturday, April 19, 2008

Eggplant: The Great Salting Debate

Many eggplant recipes recommend that the vegetable — well, it's actually a fruit — is salted before cooking. The process involves slicing or cubing the eggplant, placing it into a colander, and leaving it for 30 minutes or so*. Before cooking, rinse off the excess salt and pat the pieces dry. The eggplant will be thoroughly seasoned, and you don’t need to add anymore salt.

Okay, I may have over stated the title of this post. It may not be a "great debate," but there certainly are varied schools of thought about the value of salting eggplant before cooking it. Salt draws out the excess moisture. The major claims by both sides are:

  • The pro-salters say, salting removes bitterness from the eggplant and changes the texture, making it more dense and chewy
  • The non-salters say, eggplant is just fine the way it is
Where do I stand? Eggplant is not too bitter when it is not salted, but I prefer the texture when it is. Also, I think salted eggplant is easier to cook. Non-salted eggplant tends to burn on the outside before the interior is cooked enough.

Last night I roasted eggplant slices along with some zucchini, red pepper, and onions. We ate it with fresh whole-wheat sourdough and an arugala salad with lemon and shaved Parmesan. It was delicious and a reminder that meat-free meals can be perfectly satisfying.

* I’ve been known to leave my eggplant “salting” for up to 24 hours. I haven’t ever read a recipe the recommends salting for this long, but it was absolutely fine.

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