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Salting Sicilian Eggplant - Is it necessary?

I am making eggplant parmgiana for dinner tonigt & have 2 Sicilian eggplants. I have never salted an eggplant in my lifetime of making egpplant parmagiana, but my husband tells me that his Italian father, long since gone, salted his eggplant. Is it necessary? Thanks.

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  1. I've stoped salting my eggplant. It seems that the bitterness has been bread out of the plant these days. Also be sure that you pick up the male eggplant. You can tell the male from female by how the end of the eggplant is shaped: if it is really round with a little "belly button" at the end, then it is a female, containing a lot of seeds, making it more bitter. If it is more elongated at the end, then it is male, containing less seeds, therefore less bitter.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ida Red

      okay, that is the coolest tip ever! I had no idea that eggplants had genders - and that it affected seeds./flavour.

    2. Yes and No. Years ago eggplants where bitter . Salt removed alot of the bitterness. Eggplants are so masses produced they have no bitterness.Even the Purple and white ones the sicilian ones.If you are frying eggplants it is not nesscary.

      1. i made the eggplant parmagiana without salting the eggplant & it was delicious! thanks.

        1. I love a melt in your mouth eggplant parmagiana but I find them few and far between. The best one I've ever had by far was at a restaurant in Las Vegas called "Mama Maria's Cucina". It was located at the Rio Hotel but they closed the restaurant in 2001.

          This dish was made with no breading of the eggplant and it had several layers of eggplant and cheese. All layers were very thin and it stood a good 2 inches high.

          If any of you great cooks out there have a great recipe for eggplant parmagiana I'd be most appreciative. ty

          2 Replies
          1. re: pudding

            I don't consider eggplant parmigiana a recipe, as much as a series of techniques. And it really depends on how you like it, you have to develop it yourself really.
            I pick my eggplants by how heavy they feel, I've never gotten the "belly button" thing down. It's so much better when there's hardly any seeds inside. I look for the lightest ones.
            I cut my slices very thin (and have never salted them, never had a problem). Dip in flour, then 5 or 6 eggs beaten with a lot of parmesan cheese and heavy cream, then into a breadcrumb/flour mix. Sorry but I always bread mine, so don't know if this helps you.
            Deep fry to golden brown and THEN heavily salt. (At this point, you should eat a bunch of them as appetizers. Even my cats like them at this point!)
            Layer as you wish. The one thing I know is, homemade meat sauce is the one to use, marinara just doesn't cut it for me.
            I always use regular shredded mozz, then again I'm old-fashioned. I also used to put hard boiled egg slices in the middle, it's a Neopolitan thing, and lightens it up a little. But now I take the leftover egg dip from the breading process, and pour what's left in the middle layer. It puffs up like a souffle. Not that this is a light dish by any means!
            That's all I can say now, after 30+ years of making this, it's really simple and a great way to use up leftover sauce. But give yourself at least 2 hours to assemble.

            1. re: coll

              I just realized, when I say "meat sauce" I mean tomato sauce that had meat cooked in it, not any meat actually in the dish!

          2. agree with above posters -- eggplants are no longer nearly as bitter as they used to be. even then i never salted them, because i like the bit of bite with a sweetish sauce.

            1. I agree about the lack of bitterness in todays' eggplants...but does salting or the lack thereof..affect the texture?? Salting would break down the cell walls ..would this make them more "custardy" as they cook, or would they absorb more of the sauce??
              Just wondering???

              3 Replies
              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                I pretty much always salt eggplants and I haven't had good results when I don't. The salt does break them down some, and get rid of some water--even if that water isn't bitter, it seems like that would change the results.

                1. re: Nettie

                  That was my 'gut' feeling as well..
                  Eggplant Parm. these days often has distinct slices of Eggplant...I remember it being much softer and almost egg/custard like in its' consistency....

                  1. re: Nettie

                    Yes...this is why I've always salted the eggplant... to remove excess water prior to dredging/frying, not because of bitterness.

                2. today's purple eggplant varieties are sweet and don't seem to exhibit bitterness (unless you find one that has a lot of seeds).

                  Salting does however help with the eggplant's ability to absorb oil by dessicating the cell walls which prevents the eggplant from acting like a giant sponge and sucking up a prodigious amount of oil.

                  Or you could simple saute in a grill pan (or the oven) and get some caramelization going that way.

                  By the way has anyone figured out why this fruit is eaten by us humans at all given that it has almost 0 nutritional value? I mean why is this thing grown at all? I think it benefits greatly from all the stuff that is usually used to make it taste like goodness (garlic, tomatoes, curry, spices, onions, ...)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Food Tyrant

                    Yes..a perverse truth...my favorite vegetable...no nutritional value!!!

                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                      After reading Michael Pollan's latest article on food and nutrition, I'd prefer to think that we just haven't discovered the nutritional value yet!

                  2. Can someone explain the proper method of "salting" an eggplant?

                    I have seen two different ones - putting the eggplant in really salted water for 45 minutes or so until the water changes colour and then draining and patting dry. Also I have seen tried just covering the chopped eggplant in salt and putting it in a colander to drain - are there are any preferences?

                    1. FWIW, Jacques Pepin never salts his eggplant...so there! I never salt mine, either. For eggplant Parm the slices dry out when cooked, so the liquid evaporates. The most important rule when cooking eggplant is to make sure it is well-cooked. The raw taste is what is offensive, rather than bitterness. This is especially true with caponata. Try Chinese or Japanese eggplant in your next Parmigiana.