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Salting Sicilian Eggplant - Is it necessary?

meb903 Dec 24, 2006 01:29 PM

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.

  1. o
    OldTimer Feb 21, 2007 10:08 AM

    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.

    1. daily_unadventures Feb 21, 2007 10:01 AM

      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. f
        Food Tyrant Feb 20, 2007 11:11 PM

        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
          ChowFun_derek Feb 21, 2007 08:39 AM

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

          1. re: ChowFun_derek
            Nettie Feb 21, 2007 10:58 AM

            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. ChowFun_derek Feb 18, 2007 12:24 PM

          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
            Nettie Feb 18, 2007 07:52 PM

            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
              ChowFun_derek Feb 19, 2007 01:23 PM

              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
                thegolferbitch Feb 21, 2007 08:44 AM

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

            2. hotoynoodle Feb 16, 2007 12:33 PM

              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. p
                pudding Feb 16, 2007 12:23 PM

                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
                  coll Feb 17, 2007 03:44 AM

                  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
                    coll Feb 17, 2007 12:51 PM

                    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. m
                  meb903 Dec 24, 2006 11:29 PM

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

                  1. f
                    FAL Dec 24, 2006 02:30 PM

                    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
                      Ida Red Dec 24, 2006 02:28 PM

                      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
                        orangewasabi Feb 16, 2007 02:13 PM

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

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