Eggplant absorbs flavors easily, so it’s a versatile vegetable that can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or main dish.
Eggplant may be cooked with or without its skin. If the eggplant is large, the skin may be tough, so you may want to peel it with a vegetable peeler. White varieties tend to have thick, tough skins, and should always be peeled. If you’re baking a white eggplant, the flesh can be scooped from the skin after cooking.
Many recipes call for salting eggplant before cooking it. This step draws out some of the moisture and produces a denser-textured flesh, which means the eggplant will exude less water and absorb less fat in cooking.
Salting also seems to help reduce the vegetable’s natural astringent taste. Rinsing the eggplant thoroughly after salting will remove most of the salt. If you are following a sodium-restricted diet, however, you should not use this method.
To salt eggplant, slice or dice it per your recipe, and sprinkle the cut surfaces with salt. One half teaspoon is sufficient for a pound of eggplant. Place the salted eggplant in a colander and let stand for about 30 minutes. You can then rinse the eggplant, squeeze out the excess moisture, and pat dry with paper towels.
Here are seven ways to cook eggplant:
- Steam halved Italian or small American eggplants. Drizzle with a dressing of sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar. Let sit at room temperature and serve as an appetizer.
- Cut eggplants into thick slices, brush lightly with olive oil, and grill.
- Bake whole eggplants (poked with a couple of holes to let steam escape), then mash with lemon juice, parsley, garlic, and a touch of peanut butter or tahini (sesame butter).
- Stir-fry diced eggplant and onion with your favorite stir-fry sauce.
- Make a low-cal eggplant parmesan. Coat a baking pan with a little olive oil. Then layer thin eggplant slices with a garlicky marinara sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese. Make about three layers, and bake.
- Sautee diced eggplant with capers and tomatoes and serve over pasta.
- Bake halved eggplants until soft but still firm enough to hold their shape. Scoop out the flesh and mash with crumbled feta cheese, fresh herbs, and fresh tomatoes. Return the mixture to the eggplant shells, top with a light sprinkling of Parmesan, and broil.