Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Savoring Good Food II--Enjoying Eggplant & Eggplant Cooking Tips

Since many readers expressed interest in the vegetable post from last time, I will continue a couple of posts with kitchen hints for enjoying vegetables and some recipes, including stuffed eggplant and ratatouille. Today, some tips. Next post, some recipes. I'm getting great blogging mileage out of one vegetable in a photo, don't you think?
It was fun to hear from all of you who commented or emailed me about my most recent post. After all the praise for her beauty, the eggplant is turning diva on us. She disliked being pictured here with the other ingredients for ratatouille, but finally agreed.
Peggy Montano is a gifted painter with a lovely blog (click to see it). On my last post, she commented that she loves vegetables, except that she is less fond of eggplant (that purple diva was prominent in my photo last time, too) and wondered if a different recipe might change her mind. Peggy, it may be that the way eggplant is cooked would make little difference to you. But for what it's worth, here are a few ideas from my kitchen.
I suspect that Italian-style eggplant parmigiana is the most popular eggplant dish in the U.S. and may be the only form in which many people have eaten it. My method for considerable cuts in the fat and calories of this delicious meal is to pre-bake rather than saute the eggplant slices. Eggplant really drinks up oil when you saute it, and most parmigiana recipes call for sauteing it before making layers with the other ingredients and baking. Instead, I spray a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (a flat 11" X 14" baking sheet with 1" high sides) with cooking spray (use olive oil flavored spray, if you have it), fit thick slices of eggplant onto the sheet and spray the top of the slices again. Then bake at 425 degrees (I convection bake it, but standard baking is fine), until it is lightly browned and a bit softened. Continue with the rest of the recipe. Your meal will be much less fattening and still really delicious.
I do the same thing to cut the calories and fat in making ratatouille. For anyone not familiar with this lovely dish, my venerable cookbook describes it as a vegetable mixture stewed in olive oil. Then, it proceeds to suggest that for 1 medium eggplant, 2 yellow summer squash, some chopped garlic, green pepper, and onion, you will use 1/2 cup of olive oil, first to saute all the vegetables and then to stew them together. I know olive oil is one of the good fats, but 1/2 cup!?! Next time, I'll provide my less oily adaptation of this versatile dish.
Three other tips for cooking eggplant, any or all of which will cut the slightly bitter taste: 1) Before cooking, with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, peel off strips of peel (the long way), leaving equal strips between the peeled "stripes", so that you serve only about 1/2 the peel. 2) If you have time, salt slices of eggplant and let them sit for 30 minutes, then rinse or wipe off and cook. Some of the bitterness "sweats out." 3) Sprinkle just a dash (1/8 tsp. or less) of sugar into the mixture when you cook eggplant (I do the same with cabbage, and other non-sweet vegetables)--just enough to cut the bitter edge, but too little to actually taste in your dish.
Question of the day: What tip can you share for making eggplant (or any other vegetable) appealing, even to reluctant vegetable eaters?


  1. Mary, these seem like interesting ways to prepare the diva. My husband likes it when I slice it, salt it(let sit in paper towel to soak up any bitterness) dip in mixture of flour and cornmeal. Then saute in oil. Yes, it really soaks up the oil.
    She is still lovely in the arrangement.

  2. Yes, I like it prepared simply as you describe, too, Peggy. I will soon post a couple of actual recipes, not just preparation tips. Great to hear from you.

  3. I love eggplant parmigiana very much. What other ways do you cook eggplant I would to know what other you cook your eggplant. Because eggplant is my faviter. And would like to cook eggplant a nother way. Are you going to have openhouse again. Because i love seeing your art work very much. I hope you will have a openhouse again very soon. I hope you have a great weekend. I think of you like family. Because i like to draw alot. Do art and crafts alot. I am not that good at art and crafts. Like you are at art. I wish you would teach like art and crafts and painting class. Because you are very good at painting to.

  4. I hope you have open house again very soon. And show your painiting again. I love all of your painiting very much. I like to draw alot. But i am not that good at it like you are. I wish you would teach like art and crafts class Your painiting are very good.