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Eggplant Conundrum

Hounds, I need your help! I am a tremendous fan of the eggplant, but my fiance can't stand it. According to him, it's the texture, not the taste, that throws him.

So, I'm turning to you for recipes or preparation techniques that can mask or change the squishness that (at least in my cooking experience) accompanies large cubes or thick slices of eggplant.

Thanks~!

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  1. Have you tried really small slices of eggplant, like 1/8" thick? It's so smooth that way. With thicker slices, I've made this moussaka (I posted below) for people who claim to hate eggplant but then devoured it--you can't beat all the meat in it.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/336841

    4 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Well, I've sliced it very thin, drizzled on some olive oil and then grilled it. It tends to firm up a bit that way. Moussaka might be the trick, though. He loves mashed potatoes and hopefully adding some might hide the eggplant's texture within it. I'll let you know how it goes!

      1. re: notcolloquial

        If he loves mashed potatoes, He'll love Imam Bayildi.

        1. re: pikawicca

          pikawicca, I am confused by your post, as I can't really see the relationship between mashed potatoes (starchy, creamy, often somewhat bland) and Imam Bayildi (eggplant, olive oil, tomatoes, herbs, lemon). I do love both, however!

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Sorry. My recipe is for "Sultan's Delight," not "The Sultan Fainted." In mine, chunks of lamb and tomatoes are served over a rich cream- and cheese-enriched eggplant puree.

    2. I love the Chow recipe for tomato sauce with eggplant: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10960
      I start it with seared & rendered diced pancetta, and use my V-slicer to shred the eggplant using the julienne blade, and thin-slice the peppers and onions into rings. I really like the texture this way - everything is in long, thin strings that add to the heartiness when it's served over spaghetti. You could also shred using the large holes of a box grater.

      1. Maybe try baba ghanoush and see how that goes? I know it's probably not what you are looking to do, but it could be a good start into the eggplant world that more or less eliminates the texture issue.

        1. The texture issue might be b/c the eggplant is undercooked. I am a great lover of all things eggplant, but there is nothing worse than when it's undercooked. Eggplant is best eaten when you've cooked the shit out of it and it's all creamy and soft, which is difficult to achieve over a grill.

          11 Replies
          1. re: linguafood

            Definitely overcook eggplant. When undercooked it has a raw, offensive taste. One use I have, is to cube and saute eggplant and mix with crab mixture for crab cakes. It stretches the cakes, and picks up the flavor of the crab. Caponata is a good use, but as you say, it must be overcooked.

            1. re: linguafood

              linguafood and OldTimer, I definitely agree. You need to cook the heck out of eggplant. My favorite eggplant dish is baingan bharta (an Indian spiced eggplant dish) that I make at home and serve with fresh hot garlic naan, lemon pickle, and raita. I wish it wasn't past dinner, because that sounds so good to me right now :) And actually, I "grill" the eggplant (kind of) directly on my gas stovetop...the key is to keep turning it (tongs are helpful). It will char and the skin will loosen considerably. A thick skin means cook it longer. I keep turning it until it's fully cooked, and then I pull it off the stovetop, and let it cool in a bowl for a few minutes. When it's cool to touch, I peel it (bits of char remaining are good!), and then I proceed to make the dish (with coriander seeds, fresh cilantro, tomatoes, and onions). So good. Just a warning - the stovetop will be a mess, but it's easy to clean and imho, so worth the scrubbing.

              1. re: linguafood

                I totally disagree, unless it's then mashed into something. I love eggplant, but if it's big overcooked chunks? Then I can't get it down at all ... the gag reflex goes into quick effect.

                1. re: odkaty

                  odkaty, good catch. I forgot to mention that I also really mash down the eggplant. No big overcooked chunks at all.

                  1. re: odkaty

                    Umm, I never said anything about big chunks. And -- you can work on your gag reflex, btw '-)

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Sorry, not your big chunks! Can't speak to your cooking! It's just the concept of eggplant that's had the "shit cooked out of it" that got me ;-) Though, I love ratatouille. Maybe a better description is oily overcooked big chunks? The gag-inducers are almost always restaurant dishes, and I normally find restaurant prepared eggplant to be greasy ... hmmmm

                      1. re: odkaty

                        Yah, one of the major problems with cooking eggplant is to keep the oil-soakage down to a minimum. Salting the slices/chunks/what have you beforehand to drain out excess moisture is a good way to go, and it'll eliminate most of the spongy quality.

                        I make a really, really delicious caponata, albeit with fried eggplant... one of these days I'll have to give the oven-roasing method a shot.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Either Bittman or McGee (I think) says to precook eggplant in the nicrowave to collapse the cell walls before frying to avoid the oil suckage up effect.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            For those without a microwave, freezing then thawing allso ruptures cell walls. Whenever there's spare real estate in the freezer I put a baggie or sliced onion in there - it's easy to pry off what I need and cooks faster right from the freezer than just-sliced.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                I actually do just that ... freeze vacuum bags of pre-chopped ratatouille vegetables. Thaw and toss in a pot ... or just toss in a pot frozen and stick the lid on. The texture is fabulous. For all other applications I almost always pre-salt.

                                Have you tried African eggplant? I haven't needed to salt them, but they're much denser/smaller celled than Japanese or orb eggplant. They make the best grilled eggplant Parmesan.

                                 
                  2. Use them for tempura.

                    Mash them and use them in meatballs, meatloaf or even hamburger meat.

                    Peel and eat them raw with some honey-mustard vinagrette.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I'm not sure about tempura because of the grave danger of undercooking it -- but I was going to recommend eggplant "steak fries." Slice them into 3/4-inch batons, roll in graham cracker crumbs (really) and deep-fry till they're quite done. By the time you've done all that, you've pretty well negated all the positive attributes of the vegetable -- but dang if they aren't delicious.

                      1. re: dmd_kc

                        One way to avoid "undercooking" eggplants when making tempura is to blanch them beforehand. That said, I like a little crunch in my eggplant tempura ...

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        Mashing them it meatballs... That is utter genius! That is definitely a priori on my "to-try" list.