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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.

                      3. I usually cook/eat the smaller eggplant as the larger the eggplant the more seeds there are. Our favorite way to eat eggplant is chickenfried. Slice the eggplant 3/8" thick and place in a colander and salt. Wipe them dry then flour, egg wash and cracker crumbs and fry in oil. Drain on paper towels and eat with sour cream.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: John E.

                          I much prefer the long, slender Asian varieties of eggplant to the much fatter globe eggplants. The Asian ones have tender skins that usually do not have to be peeled, are never bitter and so don't need to be salted and drained, have fewer seeds and cook up faster. When I oven roast eggplant to be able to mash the pulp, I'll use globes (larger quantity of pulp), but for everything else, it's off to the Asian market.

                        2. Meatless eggplant balls. Roast whole eggplant, pricked all over, until deflated. Scoop out seeds. Scoop out flesh and mash. Mix with grated Parm or Romano, garlic, parsley, an egg if you think you need it, enough dry breadcrumbs to bind, S&P. Chill mixture 30 mins or so. Form into balls, saute in olive oil until browned all over. Add tomato sauce, simmer about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta or as a meatball sandwich. I love them the next day cold out of the fridge even. They do not freeze well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nemo

                            A word to the wise: if you've never before roasted eggplant, you'll be surprised at how much shrinkage there is. I'd say a good 50%. If you are going to be using the roasted eggplant in something with further cooking, like nemo's recipe, you can save time by microwaving the pricked whole eggplant instead of oven-roasting. The latter yields a more mellow flavor but if there is further cooking and bold seasoning, the sharper flavor of microwaved eggplant will disappear.

                          2. Anything roasted and mashed. Mark Bittman has a great roasted eggplant dip in How to Cook Everything. I've jacked up the proportions of both parmesan and lemon juice so it is both incredibly bright and quite cheesy. I also like to roast eggplant until blackened and collapsed and stir the resulting puree into any basic tomato sauce---really provides great body and depth of flavor and adds loads of nutritional value without all the fat associated with sauteed eggplant.

                            1. Try serving him the skinny, lighter purple Asian varieties of eggplant. Even in large chunks, stir-fried or braised, they tend to be a lot less spongy and so maybe might not offend him.

                              Also, I second the moussaka idea. My boyfriend claims not to like eggplant, but he loves my moussaka and a Thai sauteed/braised eggplant with basil dish that I make.

                              There's a recipe from a book called New York Cooks -- here it is, http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/gril... -- for a grilled eggplant and feta salad that's always a hit with non-eggplant-loving friends. I recommend slicing the eggplant far thinner than the 1/2" the recipe recommends and grilling it till super crispy.

                              1. Eggplant added to a stew and cooked a long time can thicken the sauce and give it richness. Also, Japanese eggplant cut into fries, floured, deep fried, and dusted with a little red pepper flakes and cumin are to die for fresh out of the fryer.

                                1. In addition to my too-hastily-posted reply below, I'd also recommend you do everything you can to minimize how much oil eggplant soaks up. My childhood aversion to it was from a family friend's insanely fatty, cloying, squish-tastic eggplant casserole.

                                  Use the salting method to burst the outer cell walls and discourage oil absorption: Salt the slices/cubes/strips, let them drain, then wipe them off before you do any preparation that starts with a sauté. It really makes all the difference in the world.

                                  1. jfood is surprised that he has not seen the old fashioned eggplant parmesan mentioned. And to getthe bitterness out of the eggplant, slice, salt, weigh it down a bit and all the bitter juices will expire in a couple of hours. Then some panko, into some oil to brown, build with a little mozzerella and homemade marinara (a little ricotta is a nice addition) and bake

                                    www.ctbites.com

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Me too jfood. I use the smaller Japanese eggplants, slice and salt them and prepare Ina Garten's version of Eggplant Gratin. Rather than frying the slices like she suggests, I roast them.
                                      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                      1. re: greenstate

                                        These are all super helpful suggestions... Thanks to all that replied. I'll let you know how this ordeal fairs...

                                      2. re: jfood

                                        Agreed; I'm not an eggplant lover and I won't touch it unless it's crispy because I don't like it's seeds and the texture otherwise which may sound odd because I love all things okra including the slime. Love the eggplant parmesan...

                                      3. I don't know - I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but like your fiancee I find the texture of eggplant unpleasant. My wife loves the stuff, and I've even been known to cook it for her (I do most of the cooking in the house). But I just don't care for it, in any preparation whatsoever. It's not that I'll get sick if I eat it, I just don't like it and that's that.

                                        My suggestion to you is do as we do - order it yourself when you eat out, or if you do dishes at home that include it, don't make it the unavoidable main ingredient. Don't try to force him to eat something he doesn't like. Life is too short to make a big issue out of something that doesn't need to be one.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: BobB

                                          I like the taste of eggplant but also am not crazy about the texture--it's like the texture of okra. I like it in small amounts, when the texture is covered by a lot of meat (like the moussaka), or when it's very thinly sliced and fried.

                                        2. Recenty read on another site that one good way to cook eggplant slices is in your
                                          waffle iron!! The poster says to brush the iron with a little oil, then slap on the eggplant
                                          and close. Supposedly, the eggplant gets crusty, so the texture problem would be solved.
                                          I haven't used my "Texas-shaped "waffle iron for this but plan to soon. Anyone have any
                                          "Texas -shaped " eggplant?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: amazinc

                                            Probably my post you're referring to. I recommend an egg wash, then coat in parm, then into a well-oiled wafflemaker. Reading these posts, it now makes sense, as the high surface ratio really cooks the crap out of the eggplant, transforming the taste into something really great!

                                            1. re: scuzzo

                                              I was going to suggest this too. You can also use breadcrumbs on the outside or a breadcrumb/parm combination. You could then broil the eggplant, which has a similar crunchy effect and is easier for larger quantities (flip after a few minutes). But if you have time and a waffle maker, go for the eggplant waffles.

                                          2. Bangan bhartha is good. Look for a Madhur Jaffrey recipe.

                                            1. Cut eggplant, salt and fry... drain on paper towel and make sandwhiches with tahini dip,. It'sr very good, or make mousaka'a or even eggplant parm. No spongyiness there. Eggplant has to be cooked right, I can't stand it grilled or cut up and thrown around without being cooked properly.

                                              Also you can cut it up into very small cubes, add lots of salt and put it in a strainer, let it stand there for a while then use your hand to squish it, rinse it with water so the salt comes out and keep squishing until all the water is out too.
                                              Now add oil to pan, fry the little bits up and add cubed tomato (or cubed canned tomato), salt, black pepper and simmer a bit until the eggplant is done. Goes great with any pasta!

                                              1. After more than 30 years of marriage, my husband and I finally have come to the agreement that we don't have to eat the same things all the time. So once in awhile we will have the same main dish--let's say pasta with marinara sauce--and I'll have eggplant (which he doesn't like) on the side while he has spicy sausage (which he does like.) Because let's face it, if you have to gussy it up so it basically doesn't taste like eggplant anymore what's the point?

                                                1. I just posted this recipe on another thread but what the heck - it sure is good and the texture is definitely masked. http://maninas.wordpress.com/2007/08/... is a ajvar, a traditional Croatian red pepper and eggplant relish that is delicious with meats, fries and anywhere else ketchup or traditional relishes are used.

                                                  1. This thread is ~ 9 months old, so don't know if OP is still seeking suggestions.

                                                    But here is mine. If you don't like large cubes or thick slices, why not do something different?

                                                    Try very small cubes, salted and dried off, then cook in very little oil, then use as the base of Veganomicon's Spicy Eggplant Soup.

                                                    This soup is unbelievably good. Small eggplant cubes, other veggies, and that glorious spicy, peanut buttery broth.