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Favorite way to cut down oil in eggplant dishes?

Hello cooking hounds,

I've been mostly lurking but as I work at home, also cooking more at home. Finally I can actually make dinner at a reasonable time instead of getting home at 7:30-8 pm to look at the dry beans, dry grains and half tub of hummus and try to come up with a recipe...

My question for today is favored/best ways to make eggplant (I'm planning on Fuchsia Dunlop's fish-fragrant eggplant) with less oil than when the veg is fried. I love eggplant fried but really need to watch my calories - though when I've microwaved or steamed it in the past, have been a bit underwhelmed with its blander squishy character.

Thank you!

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  1. Try a recipe where you bake/roast it.

    1. I roast eggplant on a sheet pan at about 425, works well with just a coating of oil to prevent sticking.

      1. Fried eggplant is delicious...wish it weren't so unhealthy.

        I make moussaka with eggplant slices that I have sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or painted lightly with olive oil and baked in the oven. They are tasty but leathery compared to proper fried eggplant. Since they are layered between sauce the end result isn't leathery at all, though. It absorbs the moisture in the adjacent meat sauce nicely and is soft. The end result of the entire moussaka is pleasantly less oily for not frying the eggplant, so I actually have come to prefer the baked eggplant method.

        For pan fried type dishes, you can also pain with oil or non-stick spray and keep covering and uncovering with the lid of the pan to allow the eggplant to steam in it's own moisture but still get a little brownness for flavor.

        1. Yes to what others have said....I slice it with the peel on and *lightly* brush with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes...works pretty well!

          1. Thank you all! Great suggestions and tonight I will make the Dunlop recipe with oven roasted eggplant, though I also like luckyfatima's idea of pan sauteeing and covering with the lid fo moisture.

            1. I generally roast eggplants, especially the long, skinny light purple ones (they're called Japanese eggplants at the market I go to.). If I pan fry, I like to put them in a colander or sieve and salt them first. This gets rid of some of the moisture from the eggplant so that it cooks quicker without becoming mushy. In both methods, I use very little oil.

              1. I just looked up the recipe and it is 4 T. of oil for two medium eggplants. That isn't very much oil for so much food; also, it is not fried, per se, but stir-fried.

                Also, I was curious about the fish-fragrant part when there are no fish products in it. At Serious Eats they say that there is a bit of a fish smell. So what is actually happening here is that the CANOLA oil is doing its ICKY fish thing - just one of the myriad nasty smells that can be produced by this nasty oil.

                I would go ahead and stir-fry your eggplant as instructed in the recipe, but use a little bit less oil and use a BETTER oil than canola.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sandylc

                  The recipe in Land of Plenty calls for deep frying and oil sufficient to deep fry, maybe she revised it to lessen the oil in a later recipe due to Western squeamishness with oily food? 4T is still more than I'm comfortable with - I'll roast and then brown or crisp the pieces in maybe 2 T of oil.

                  What oil do you prefer to canola? I think I have that, olive and grapeseed (and walnut and sesame in the fridge).

                  1. re: HillsofBeverly

                    I am surely not an authority on oil, but I have read that grapeseed is a good choice for frying.

                  2. re: sandylc

                    The "fish-fragrant" designation has nothing to do with canola oil, which is not called for in Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes (she calls for stir-frying in peanut oil and deep-frying in peanut or corn oil; what adaptions people post online is a whole other story). The dish is also not meant to smell like fish.

                    Here's what Dunlop has to say about fish-fragrant flavor in her Sichuanese cookbook Land of Plenty:

                    "Another celebrated Sichuanese invention, based on the seasonings used in traditional fish cookery, this flavor combines salty, sweet, sour, and spicy notes, with the heady fragrance of garlic, ginger, and scallions. The core seasoning is pickled red chiles, either on their own or mixed with fava beans in Sichuanese chile bean paste, which give fish-fragrant dishes their distinctive orange-red hue. Examples: fish-fragrant sauce for cold chicken, fish-fragrant pork slivers, fish-fragrant eggplant."

                    1. Oil is a somewhat necessary evil in stirfry dishes, but the amount is SO small, it's neglible.

                      For other eggplant recipes that call for eggplant slices or batons to be fried in oil, I simply brush or spray them with extra-virgin olive oil, season, & bake in a hot ove or low-broil until just tender.

                      1. As many others have stated roasting is a wonderful way to cut back on the oil yet maintain texture and flavor.

                        One of my favorite pasta and bruschetta toppings is roasting cubes of eggplant, cherry tomatoes and garlic tossed with olive oil, red pepper flakes and S&P. Throw the roasted veggies in a FP with some fresh basil and puree until smooth. For pasta thin with some of the pasta water.

                        I have also been successful oven "frying" eggplant slices that I first dredged in flour, egg and then panko. Spray a jelly roll plan with oil, lay out the slice, spray the slices with oil and bake in a really hot oven, turning once. Works great for eggplant parm.

                        1. I love to grill sliced eggplants and layer with a freshly made sauce of chopped tomatoes (pips and all), kalamata olives, capers, a little white wine, and red pepper flakes (basically a quick puttanesca). Dot it with fresh mozzarella.

                          1. In the oven always....I sometimes make a pretty good parmiggiani with bread crumbs and cheese in the oven from start to end.

                            1. Dry-fry slices in a non-stick pan. Works for me.

                              1. For my non-fried version of fried eggplant curry, I cube the eggplant and toss it with the marinade ingredients (lime juice, turmeric, salt) and add a bit of oil to the mix. Then I grill the cubes on a countertop grill before adding it to the coconut milk sauce. I only like eggplant when it is absolutely cooked to death, and this works for me. I've also made the eggplant out of Jerusalem and it was halved and roasted at a high heat after being brushed with oil and spices, and was also meltingly tender and delicious.

                                1. I can't help you with an Asian Version that has not already been suggested....but if you like a breaded version, one of the best tips I learned for breaded and fried eggplant is to mix with Parmigiano Reggiano .....and cook in a Waffle Iron... Depending on the type of cheese you use, you may have to use some oil to make the coating golden crispy.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. I'm with those that say to roast it. I rarely, if ever, have fried it. If you want, toss with a bit of oil, or use a mister. Then coat with whatever spice combination floats your boat.
                                    If you let it sit, and it sweats a bit, you can add your spices then, without them falling off a dry piece.

                                    1. For sauteeing eggplant, you can briefly soak the eggplant in water so it doesn't absorb as much oil. This idea came from Sam Fujisaka here on chowhound. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6270...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        I don't see anywhere where Sam says to "soak the eggplant in water"; just to add a very little bit while frying. Eggplant is like a sponge. Soaking it will have it absorbing the water, diluting it's flavor, & watering down anything it's added to. Sorry, but in my opinion, a very bad idea.

                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                          Correct, but he was the inspiration for adding water to help prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil. The results work for me without compromising flavor.

                                      2. Sometimes I will microwave then bake slices of globe eggplant. I microwave it covered to precook, then bake to crisp it up. Before I bake I may brush it with a marinade. When I just bake it without the precooking it can get leathery. I like eggplant soft and almost custardy with an almost crispy crust. I do find quite a bit of variation in the eggplants I buy. Some turn out perfect and some do not.

                                        1. I stopped breading eggplant because I felt it took over the delicate flavor of the vegetable but it also stopped me from using the frying method entirely. I just don't like what hot oil does to eggplant.

                                          I typically keep the skin on, slice into rounds, brush a small amount of oil, to which I've add mashed garlic, s&p, oregano and basil, on the top of each round with a brush and roast the rounds on a foil lined tray for 15 mins at 400 degrees. Then I remove the tray, top each round with a dollop of tomato paste (love the intense tomato flavor) and a sprinkle of grated parm cheese and return to the oven for maybe 8 mins or so. I wind up with these roasted rounds that are rich and moist and perfect as is, in a sandwich or added to pasta.

                                          1. Results - in the end, as I needed to balance making 3 dishes at once on 2 burners (which I did successfully) I baked the long, Asian eggplants (cut in half lengthwise and rubbed with oil). I might have let them sit in the oven too long, as the thinnest portions dried a bit, but I think they rehydrated well in the Fish-Fragrant sauce and were delicious. Thank you all for the tip!

                                            I did, in the same meal, stir fry the dry fried green beans in oil, and those were great, but since I love roasted and grilled green beans I may try to oven roast those prior to tossing with flavorings in the next rendition of them.

                                            1. Like others I slice, lightly oil and roast, but add a tray of boiling water underneath. It prevents slices from becoming leathery.

                                              1. I make a version of imam bayeldi, where the aubergine is poached in passata rather than fried. Works well and I think I prefer it to the traditional version.

                                                Of course, the other option to cutting down the oil is to not cut down the oil but cut down the frequency you eat aubergine.

                                                1. I was hoping Christinamason might respond to this thread with her trick to treating eggplant so you can fry it without it absorbing too much oil. From what I recall, she salts sliced eggplant to draw out the moisture and then microwaves the slices for a few minutes to tenderize before finishing them in the pan.

                                                  1. Cut down on oil? I say, bring it on!

                                                    But yeah, roasted over an open flame is pretty good. If you have Fuchsia Dunlop's new one, try the Smoky Eggplant with Garlic (火烧茄子, p63 -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8522...).

                                                    Steamed or blanched can have a nice texture too, but it's a texture you kind of have to get used to - more squeaky and slippery. I have had some really good dishes where slits are cut in the eggplant, and it's steamed with some aromatics, chilies, and sauce on top, and it's really delicious.

                                                    I have also had *great* luck using the red charmoula recipe from "Mourad: New Moroccan" by Mourad Lahlou (you can find the recipe in Google Books if you don't want to buy the book). Marinate thin-sliced eggplant, cauliflower, and other vegetables (zucchini works well too) in the charmoula, and grill. It's my current favorite way to grill vegetables.

                                                    1. Try brushing on a very thin layer of egg white before frying. See http://toriavey.com/how-to/2014/05/ho...

                                                      1. When I make moussaka I do not fry the eggplant at all. I lay out the strips on a cookie sheet, spray them LIGHTLY with olive oil, and bake in a 400* oven.