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Pre-salting eggplant?

f
fauchon Jun 11, 2009 11:03 AM

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

  1. meesha Jan 15, 2012 03:31 PM

    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."

    1. coll Jun 16, 2009 05:18 AM

      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
        kchurchill5 Jun 16, 2009 10:00 AM

        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
          coll Jun 16, 2009 02:31 PM

          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. enbell Jun 15, 2009 06:28 PM

        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. BeaN Jun 14, 2009 02:42 PM

          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
            Sam Fujisaka Jun 14, 2009 04:25 PM

            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. a
            Alshain Jun 14, 2009 01:34 PM

            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. mels Jun 14, 2009 08:40 AM

              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
                Boccone Dolce Jun 16, 2009 04:05 AM

                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. kchurchill5 Jun 13, 2009 04:13 PM

                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. m
                  MysticYoYo Jun 13, 2009 03:37 PM

                  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. a
                    another_adam Jun 13, 2009 03:07 PM

                    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
                      BeaN Jun 14, 2009 02:38 PM

                      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
                        a
                        another_adam Jun 14, 2009 03:30 PM

                        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
                          BeaN Jun 14, 2009 06:00 PM

                          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
                            BeaN Jun 14, 2009 06:02 PM

                            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
                            kchurchill5 Jun 14, 2009 04:00 PM

                            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. mcel215 Jun 13, 2009 01:42 PM

                          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. cassoulady Jun 12, 2009 06:35 AM

                            i salt my eggplant for many dishes.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cassoulady
                              g
                              ginnyhw Jun 13, 2009 05:35 AM

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

                            2. k
                              KiltedCook Jun 12, 2009 06:06 AM

                              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
                                Cheese Boy Jun 13, 2009 01:00 PM

                                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
                                  kchurchill5 Jun 13, 2009 02:10 PM

                                  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. jfood Jun 12, 2009 04:21 AM

                                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
                                  kchurchill5 Jun 12, 2009 08:05 AM

                                  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
                                    jfood Jun 13, 2009 05:03 AM

                                    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
                                      kchurchill5 Jun 13, 2009 06:52 AM

                                      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
                                        jfood Jun 13, 2009 07:37 AM

                                        thx K

                                        1. re: jfood
                                          kchurchill5 Jun 13, 2009 07:45 AM

                                          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
                                    j
                                    Jacey Jun 14, 2009 11:16 AM

                                    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
                                      kchurchill5 Jun 14, 2009 11:37 AM

                                      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. Sam Fujisaka Jun 11, 2009 05:57 PM

                                    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
                                      FoodFuser Jun 11, 2009 07:31 PM

                                      nice tip.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                        chowser Jun 12, 2009 05:00 AM

                                        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
                                          Sam Fujisaka Jun 13, 2009 07:00 AM

                                          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. v
                                        Val Jun 11, 2009 05:25 PM

                                        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. l
                                          laliz Jun 11, 2009 05:02 PM

                                          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
                                            j
                                            Jacey Jun 14, 2009 11:06 AM

                                            And how is that?

                                            1. re: Jacey
                                              l
                                              laliz Jun 16, 2009 10:54 AM

                                              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
                                                enbell Jun 16, 2009 05:10 PM

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

                                                1. re: laliz
                                                  t
                                                  Tturdul May 12, 2012 07:55 PM

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

                                            2. hotoynoodle Jun 11, 2009 02:03 PM

                                              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
                                                w
                                                weezycom Jun 11, 2009 04:51 PM

                                                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. s
                                                silverhawk Jun 11, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                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
                                                  kchurchill5 Jun 11, 2009 11:29 AM

                                                  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
                                                    s
                                                    silverhawk Jun 11, 2009 01:31 PM

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

                                                    1. re: silverhawk
                                                      kchurchill5 Jun 11, 2009 01:41 PM

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

                                                2. kchurchill5 Jun 11, 2009 11:14 AM

                                                  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
                                                    c
                                                    cimui Jun 11, 2009 07:57 PM

                                                    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.

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