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Farmers' Market Desserts
By Jennie Schacht


Tips on Eggplants

  • Generally speaking, don't fry them.
    Eggplants are a sponge for oil. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. However, Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, suggests that those who since time immemorial have complained about this simply haven’t waited long enough. Eggplants absorb oil because a high proportion of the volume of the vegetable consists of intercellular air pockets, he explains. "The point is reached, however, when the heat of the pan and oil begins to collapse the structure, and then, like a squeezed sponge, it gives up much of the oil," McGee insists.
  • Instead of frying, roast, bake, grill or steam eggplants.
    To roast, cut into thick slices and coat lightly with olive oil before placing in an oiled pan in a hot oven until soft. Or roast whole under a broiler or over an open flame. Before roasting them whole, however, be sure to prick eggplants in a few places to avoid an explosion.
  • How to infuse an eggplant with a smoky flavor on the stovetop.
    Paula Wolfert, in The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, passes on this tip she learned from Greek cookbook author Vefa Alexiadou. Wrap it in a double thickness of foil and set it over high flames on the top of a stove, turning on all sides, until it collapses.
  • To reduce bitterness, salt eggplant slices or chunks.
    Let the salted chunks sit for awhile before draining them in a colander. That will do the trick, or so say some eggplant authorities. Others insist salting won’t cure bitterness but can help eggplant pieces hang together during cooking and may also prevent them from soaking up so much oil.
  • Smaller, immature eggplants are best.
    Full-sized puffy ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter.
  • Ignore their gender.
    Contrary to some reports, the presence or absence of an indentation at the bottom of the vegetable doesn’t distinguish males from females. Eggplants and all other seed-bearing fruits and vegetables are female.

Copyright 1997 Seasonal Chef