Eggplant: Go Small or Go Home
Do you ever order Eggplant Parmesan and feel like it’s more seeds than eggplant? Those bitter seeds are our theory for why many people say they don’t like this
much-maligned veggie. Keeping the seeds out of the sauce—which are much
more prevalent in larger, overripe versions—is key to discovering how good
eggplant can be.
Season: July to November (peak)
Avoid mushy eggplants or eggplants that don’t bounce back when you lightly press on it. The eggplant must have a firm consistency.
Smaller, or “Japanese,” eggplants will have fewer bitter seeds. If the only option is firm but larger eggplants, we recommend buying twice the amount needed and simply discard much of the lower bulbous section where the seeds are. (Plus, who wants to chew on all those seeds?)
Some people call for salting the eggplant and letting it sweat to “remove bitterness.” This is a rather obsolete idea (in fact, an Italian chef I worked for literally “guffawed” when I brought up this technique). If you follow the guidelines above, you should have delicious, ripe eggplant without having to salt it. However, some contend that it is useful to salt the eggplant if you don’t want it to absorb liquids (oil/broth) like a sponge during cooking. But you can try both ways and decide for yourself!
If you decide to salt the eggplant, place it in a colander and sprinkle coarse salt
on it. You may also want to put a plate over it with something heavy, like a can of tomatoes, to apply more pressure and accelerate sweating. Rinse briefly afterward and pat dry.
To skin or not to skin?
Whether you want to peel the eggplant or not is mostly a texture preference, but we prefer skin on. The skin also contains an antioxidant that prevents cell damage.
What’s with the green eggplants?
Harder to find than the purple-skinned Italian/American versions, green-skinned eggplants are slightly sweeter and have a more delicate flavor akin to artichoke.
If you come across them, give them a whirl!