Dining In

The Skinny on Eggplant
By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist


Eggplant Parmiagiana

Why do recipes generally say slice eggplant, sprinkle with salt and set aside? Is it necessary to salt eggplant and set aside?

Can eggplant be eaten raw?

What can be done to keep eggplant from acting as a sponge when cooking in oil?

Read on for answers.

Eggplant is a relative newcomer to American tables. But in the Middle East, China and India, eggplant is an ancient and constant cuisine component.

Consequently, for some of us (older folks) who may not have grown up with frequent eggplant, when the recipe says “sprinkle with salt and drain for 30 minutes,” we dutifully do just that. However, in my usual rush, I considered that eggplant step a pain.

Hooray! A little research into eggplant reveals salting  isn’t required!! Why? Because once upon a time, eggplant were bitter or considered bitter. The salting was to take out the bitterness. Now, frankly, I’ve never tasted a bitter eggplant. So maybe all those years of salting were a total waste. New varieties of eggplant are, so experts say, not bitter. Besides, most of us are trying to avoid quantities of salt. If, however, you like to salt eggplant and think it tastes better salted, by all means, continue.          

There was one other reason for salting eggplant: to remove water. Eggplant is 92 percent water and not one of the more nutritious vegetables. Salting does draw out some of the water and keeps sliced eggplant from being so porous if it will be fried.

As for eating eggplant raw, you just wouldn’t want to. It doesn’t taste good and the mushy texture is even worse raw. Besides, uncooked eggplant contains solanine — a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal difficulties.

So, for our last question, what to do to reduce the sponge qualities of eggplant? Earlier in my cooking days, I fried eggplant in oil. It just absolutely slurped up the oil. In my more fat/health-conscious cooking days, I never fry eggplant. I now prepare it broiled or baked. I still love the Broiled Eggplant recipe with margarine, but I have used spray. Tastes fine and you feel virtuous with the spray version. Eggplant Parmigiana is such a cheesy combination, that we served it for an entrée. Easy, filling and delicious.

BROILED EGGPLANT

Ingredients:

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Eggplant, peeled and sliced in 1⁄2-inch or thicker slices

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1 egg, beaten, 1 T water added

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Salt and pepper

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Cornflake, dried bread or cracker crumbs

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1 stick margarine, olive oil or fat-free spray

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Chutney

Directions: Prepare eggplant. Beat egg, add about 1 tablespoon water and salt and pepper. Dip eggplant slices in egg wash, then in crumbs. Set aside. Method #1: Melt margarine on large baking sheet. Dip crumbed eggplant slices on each side in margarine. Arrange on sheet. Broil 6 to 8 inches from broiler until light brown. Turn slices and broil on opposite side until done.  Method #2: Lightly drizzle olive oil on crumbed slices. Proceed as above. Method #3: Spray nonfat cooking spray on slices. Proceed as above. To serve, arrange eggplant on serving platter. Place a small dollop of chutney in the center of each slice.

EGGPLANT PARMIAGIANA

Ingredients:

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3 T olive oil

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1 large eggplant or 2 medium (about 1 1⁄4 lbs.), peeled and sliced

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1 cup (or more) prepared marinara sauce

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2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

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1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh)

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1⁄2 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped, if desired

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Tabasco, if desired

Directions: Prepare eggplant. Preheat oven to 400˚. Pour olive oil in small bowl. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. If desired, sprinkle with hot sauce. Broil 3 to 4 inches from broiler for about 3 minutes. Turn slices over and brush with remaining oil. Broil about 3 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on bottom of lightly oiled or sprayed flat casserole or large pie plate. Spread with marinara sauce. Combine mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Spread cheese mixture over slices. Repeat layers. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Makes 4 servings.

 

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