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Pre-salting eggplant?

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A lot of cookbooks include this step to draw water out of the eggplant. Is this really necessary? Or can I just skip it?

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  1. I am sure you will get many variations on this. I don't salt mine, but I primarily use the smaller japanese eggplants. The older mature eggplants are the ones that have more seeds and tend to get bitter. By adding a little salt it draws out the water and the bitterness. I only do this when using full size mature eggplants. I just put a small great over a cookie sheet and season with salt. Let drain and then cook. But I like the small eggplants for more flavor and great texture. I think I only salted them once until I found out by trail and error I didn't need to salt them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kchurchill5

      Exactly what kchurchill and silverhawk said. :)

      If young and relatively dense and tender, no need to salt. Anything else, salt unless you like your eggplant bitter.

    2. if you've got time and if you're using "big" eggplant and not the smaller japanese version, i'd salt/press. it improves the taste and the "cookability."

      3 Replies
      1. re: silverhawk

        A few versions of the small ones available at our farmers market which I love buying. I hardly ever buy the big ones anymore.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          looks like we were typing an initial answer at nearly the same time. sorry for the overlap. fortunately, we agreed.

          1. re: silverhawk

            We did, oh well 2 answers for the price of one :)

      2. i don't salt. i like that the eggplant is bitter. i also suspect that step was from long ago when the eggplants were far more bitter than the hybrids in stores now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I'd press and salt if I was planning on frying it, just to reduce the water and get a quicker, more even browning on the eggplant.

        2. I learned to make eggplant from my Sicilian MIL (who is now 88 and has dementia).
          I had never liked eggplant until she taught me her version, which I loved and still make exactly as directed. I never vary.

          And it is salted.

          4 Replies
          1. re: laliz

            And how is that?

            1. re: Jacey

              Slice 4 eggplants thinly. Salt and single layer between paper towels as you slice. I put a towel down, cover with as many slices as I can, salt (I use coarse Kosher salt) and put another towel on top and repeat.

              When all eggplant is sliced and between toweling, I turn the entire production over.

              Saute in single layer in olive oil and repeat layering between paper toweling.

              Saute one chopped onion until translucent and add 1 can (15) oz. tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

              Spoon small amount of sauce into bottom of baking dish. Cover with layer of eggplant. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with grated pecorino romano. Repeat layers ending with light layer of pecorino.

              cover w/foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

              Good hot or cold. (I love it cold w/Italian bread)

              1. re: laliz

                Oh man, I should have waited a day to cook mine. This sounds great!

                1. re: laliz

                  you are my new favorite person.... My nonna taught my the same way... (my mom cant cook... ;))

            2. I buy regular eggplant but never really large ones (it's just 2 of us) and I don't salt it. Last Friday, I was dying for some eggplant parmigiana, on a work night no less. I almost salted it because my sister always does but I figured we would be eating at 11 p.m. if I did that...so I didn't salt it and it was deee-lish. I've never had a problem not salting but I try to buy young, smallish eggplant.

              1. Here in Colombia I can only get large globe eggplants; but use them in dishes better suited to Japanese eggplants. So I usually slice, salt, press, and squeeze. As I mention elsewhere, however, one tip is that if you're sauteeing eggplant strips or rounds in a frying pan, you can start with just a bit of oil and add a bit of water a few times after the eggplant sucks up all the oil. You get lots of oil flavor with just a bit of oil.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  nice tip.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    I've used this hint since you mentioned it in the past and it's an excellent way to reduce oil. I've also used chicken stock, instead of water.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Credit where credit is due. I learned the water - eggplant tip from Borja, the Spanish cook who appears on the elgourmet channel in show from Argentina. He tried to be the Latin America Alton Brown. Wore a lab coat and was so silly they finally got rid of that bit.

                  2. couple of answers for different uses

                    eggplant parm - yes
                    fried eggplant (breaded) - yes
                    baked eggplant (large chunks - no
                    grilled eggplant slices - no
                    added to roasted chicken - no

                    all depends

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      I even use the small ones for my fried eggplant and my parm and don't salt. They are so tender and not bitter I still don't salt, but by all means salt with the big ones. I slice my small EP, bread and fry and then are tender and sweet. I love them. but as I said, I use the smaller ones which are different.

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        Good morning K,

                        Do you bread the small ones for Parm? Although jfood would loved the extra goodies of the fried stuff, it sounds like a lot of breading. Help please?

                        TIA

                        1. re: jfood

                          I do bread them. I have done the traditional pan fried or sauteed which is my favorite and I have also baked them for a bit healthier option and even used them without breading for a couple of friends that are dieting.

                          For me, breading 90% of the time. I just find the small ones so sweet and more tender compared to the large. But I am lucky with our market with many types that are always available.

                          I do a light coating and I do cut them lengthwise when I can which helps rather than the small rounds. I am a light breading person anyways, I like to use an egg white and then the breading. When I can go lighter I try to.

                          Making it baked, just sliced, drizzled with olive oil, s/p and then topped with a little mix of olive oil and bread crumbs. It is 1/2 as bad and still a good quick alternative without frying and not bad for those who don't like the frying and for those who also don't want all the coating. It also works and has the same flavors.

                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            thx K

                            1. re: jfood

                              welcome, I'm sure many options available and everyone has a favorite. I cook for a wide variety of friends and family and others where one likes breading, one doesn't, one likes baked one likes friend. Confuses the hell out of me at times. But I try to make them all happy if possible.

                              Eggplant to me is great no matter how you make it! One of my favorite veggies and so versatile.

                              FYI:
                              This is really good:
                              http://www.recipezaar.com/Roasted-Egg...

                              found it last year when a friend gave me 4 large eggplants. It was an excellent soup. I made a double batch and took some to friends, kept a lot and some to the senior retirement center who worked with my Aunt who at that time just passed. I had 6 requests for the soup. But can't take credit ... recipezaar. Really good soup when you have LOTS of eggplant.

                      2. re: jfood

                        Disagree about when you grill eggplants. You should salt. A well-known local chef known for his grilling told me that at a cooking demonstration at a farmers market.

                        1. re: Jacey

                          I agree with jfood. I don't salt even the big normally when grilling, but for other applications have. But admit I have salted the big and then grilled, but didn't see the need. I use small 90% of the time so I rarely.

                      3. Why on earth would you want to draw water out. All you get is eggplant leather. And as Alton would say - that's NOT good eats. I like plump eggplant. The problem is most cooking methods dry them out.

                        So - I slice or cut my large eggplant and then BRINE them in a standard 1 Tbsp salt per quart solution for about an hour. Keeps them nice and plump and tasty - not bitter - whether I grill them, or make eggplant Parm, or bread and pan fry.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          I had my doubts KC, but I was just informed that this method works well to help remove the bitterness in any eggplant. Apparently, a bath in a brine along with a few submerged basil leaves, works wonders. I should give it a try.

                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                            Agreed, however, the little ones are never bitter, but the big ones definitely can be. Never thought of a brine for the big ones. The basil sounds very interesting. With all the little varieties at my market I rarely buy the big guys.

                            I was amazed at all the varieties that emerged a few years ago available at the farmers market. Today I bought a perfectly round zucchini and a yellow squash. Perfectly round the size of a baseball. Also this funny looking black skinned squash. I'll be interested to see how they taste as well.

                        2. i salt my eggplant for many dishes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cassoulady

                            Me too. I salt, wait 15 minutes and pat dry with paper towels Results in using less less oil. Key for ratatouille.

                          2. The only way I make eggplant is for parmigiana. And when I was taught as a teenager, by my MIL, there was no "pre-salting, hanging over the colander step". She turned 96 in March and who's to argue with a recipe that works so well.

                            I do agree with the person who said that way back the non-hybrids were bitter.

                            The only tip I remember about purchasing them from her, was that there were male and female eggplants. She said the female were sweeter and to buy those. ;)

                            1. I find that I'm somewhat allergic to the bigger globe eggplants (get a rash from handling them in prep, or even can react from eating them from time to time). Salting seems to remove some of the potency and decrease the chances of a reaction. I've seen others mention this, too-- I'm not actually 100% convinced that it's a true correlation, since I've never done a double-blind test (salting half of an eggplant, trying both halfs in successive meals or something). I never both with smaller eggplants, but I do sometimes do it for a larger eggplant, especially the scrappy locally grown ones. This soaking/brining idea is also intriguing-- I wonder if it has a similar effect in drawing out allergenic compounds?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: another_adam

                                If you are having an allergic reaction to eggplant, you should stop eating or cooking it.. Your response may be mild now, but it can escalate to life threatening with no in-between phase to warn you.

                                That said, I've often remarked that if i should develop a seafood allergy, I'm just going to have to die!

                                1. re: BeaN

                                  Thanks, that's useful to keep in mind. My reaction is purely external (skin rash, or occasionally on lips from eating whole slices), and I have no problems at all if I minimize contact-- e.g., by not using my hands to mash the roasted eggplant and form it into cutlets. I've had others mention the same--maybe sort similar to getting a contact rash from mango?

                                  1. re: another_adam

                                    I'm sorry if I seemed to be scolding you. I've learned about this from reading Chowhound, so I'm not a medical expert. I read here recently that the more generalized symptoms are more worrisome. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable will respond?

                                    1. re: another_adam

                                      Thanks, Sam.

                                      And if you are ever auditioning for future ex-wives, I'd like to sign up. I'll have to do something about my husband first, though!

                                    2. re: BeaN

                                      I'm laughing because food without seafood is not worth anything. I have to eat seafood. But true ... My mom ate lobster for years and one year for her birthday I gave her lobster, she got deathly ill. Hospital. They told her to never eat it again. She had ate it all her life until just a few weeks before that.

                                      Allergies can creep up. Just be care and consult a physician.

                                      Nice point BeaN

                                  2. My father taught me how to make Eggplant Parm and his method was to slice the eggplant and layer it in a colander, salt each layer and then cover it with a plate and weigh it down with something heavy, like a gallon of water. Set the colander on a plate. The bitter purple water drawn out by the salt will collect in the bottom plate. That bitter water is one of the reasons that so many people do not like eggplant. Once you remove that bitter taste you'll be surprised at how many people will become fans of the fruit.

                                    1. Just a thought talking eggplants, a great recipe for using larger eggplants.

                                      I large eggplant cut in rounds, cut fairly thin
                                      1 6-8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella cut in thin rounds as well (I chill mine in the freezer and
                                      using fishing line to get thin cuts)
                                      1/4 cup olives diced fine
                                      1/4 cup olives in olive oil fine diced
                                      1 cup or a bit more of fresh bread crumbs
                                      1 cup flour
                                      1 pinch red pepper, s/p, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
                                      1-2 eggs beaten

                                      Cut the eggplant, salt and then let set, pat dry and set to the side. Now mix the olives fresh basil, sundried tomatoes in a bowl and set to the side while you cut your mozarella. Prepare a pan of fresh bread crumbs with a little cayenne, s/p and one bowl with flour and one with the eggs.

                                      Stack 1 eggplant, spread the olive and tomato mix, just a bit. Top with mozz and another eggplant. Dip in flour then, egg then bread crumbs, make sure to get the sides too. Pan saute in olive oil. As the cheese melts the entire stack will stick together better. They need to be flipped gently. This is a great dish and really no need for any dip. If anything, just a light marinara sauce. Serve it with some grilled lamb chops or pork loin, really good.

                                      1. I usually buy the bigger eggplants and I never salt. I like the taste of straight up eggplant and don't find it to be bitter. I grill, fry, roast...cook it every which way without salting.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mels

                                          Me either. I tried it a few times and it seemed like a waste of time.

                                          OMG One time I made it for my Mom (she was quite sick at the time) at her place, for her and her husband and their guests. I salted, pressed, started tasting the wine, made my dipping station, fried them up (at her request) and they were GORGEOUS- made the red sauce, sliced the mutz- layered, baked... Got a ride home cuz I was skunked.
                                          I heard reports the next morning they had to order pizzas- my dish was lovely to look at my tasted like layered salt!

                                        2. I don't think I've ever some across a bitter eggplant (zucchini, on the other hand, can be hit or miss) so I don't salt them on that account. However, I think salt improves the texture in drawing away a lot of moisture, so if I'm making marinated, baked or grilled eggplant, I usually salt.

                                          1. To the OP, thank you for posing this question. I have learned so much by reading the conversation.

                                            A Q for the salters - how do you avoid the end product being overly salty? Sometimes ours are nearly inedible after the salting (and this is being said by someone who carries a seasalt grinder in her purse).

                                            To whoever commented about "eggplant leather" or jerky - we have actually roasted them, thinly sliced, to crispiness on purpose. They were great "crackers" with a salad!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: BeaN

                                              The reason to salt is to get rid of the excess water. At the end of the salting period, squeeze out the eggplant rounds like a kitchen sponge - you'll get rid of almost all the water and most of the salt.

                                            2. Pre-salted eggplant parm (with Panko) for dinner tonight. Not at all bitter, but a taaaaaaaad on the salty side. I'll rinse and squeeze better next time :)

                                              1. I've never had an eggplant that tasted bitter, although my tastebuds aren't all that discriminating. On the other hand, my husband has that sensitivity to bitterness and he loves fried eggplant, and has never once complained (and I make it a lot).

                                                Never salt before, but after deep frying, I am liberal with the salt. We usually eat about a third of them plain before I make them into parmigiana. My cats love them this way too! Also excellent plain fried on tomato and fresh mozz sandwiches in the dead of summer, one of our faves.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: coll

                                                  I grill my egg plant, diced tomato and olive, fresh mozz and sprouts and and a nice aioli on bread. Dinner sometimes during the hot summer months. Coll, glad you like it too. It is a fave of mine, sometimes even a slice of portabello I have left. That reminds me to make one soon

                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                    I loved any grilled veggies on sandwich, unfortunately I'm the only one in my house. Grilled eggplant, zuccini, yellow squash etc with maybe feta and some hummus too, and a juicy slice of tomato to top it off. If the sun ever comes out, I'll be living on it.

                                                2. Interesting study on this by Russ Parsons several years ago:

                                                  http://articles.latimes.com/1996-10-1...

                                                  He directly compared eggplant slices prepared three ways: unsalted/unpressed, salted/unpressed, salted/pressed.

                                                  He concluded from his tests that salting didn't make any difference in bitterness or oil absorption (unless salted for a very long time and then pressed, and then the texture wasn't good anymore). He did report a slight difference in texture when frying eggplant, though, if the eggplant had been salted for about 1.5 hours, which made it creamier. Pressing didn't make much difference unless the eggplant had been salted for a long time (~4 hours), and then it was only slighter denser in texture.

                                                  His concludes with "I'll still grill without salting, but if I fry the eggplant before baking it in a sauce (like eggplant parmigiana), I will take the time to salt it for an hour and a half or so. The texture was improved enough to warrant the effort. On the other hand, I can see that in some kinds of stews, where you want the eggplant to have a little more bite, I'll fry it without salting."