Elegant and Eclectic Eggplant

Let’s say you’ve just walked into the grocery store and on the way to pick up some onions you notice a healthy sized mound of eggplant, with glossy, deep purple skin shining under the florescent lights. Say you were unable to resist picking one up, paying for it, and taking it home. How would you fix it? That is the question at hand.

If you are of Asian, Indian, or Middle Eastern background, probably 20 ways to fix eggplant come to mind at once. A farmer friend sells 200 eggplants a week to one restaurant alone that specializes in Israeli cuisine. But many of us are left to flounder around trying to find a way to cook and eat this most beautiful and exotic vegetable.

Now that several kinds are commonly available—the miniature varieties called Japanese or Italian eggplants that are a deep purple; or long, slender, paler Chinese eggplants; or the standard large purple-black ones—I am making it a point to collect different ways of fixing eggplant. So far these experiments have tasted so good that I’m eating eggplant about once a week.

THE BREAK-

through discovery for me (not a new trick at all, but I didn’t try it until recently) was the salt-and-let-it-sit technique that eliminates eggplant’s one discordant flavor, a hint of bitterness. I have tried cubing fresh eggplant and soaking it in salt water, as well as slicing it into rounds, salting it heavily, then patting off the resulting salty juice with a paper towel or cloth 10 minutes later. (Some sources say leave salt on 30 minutes, but I’ve never left myself that much time to spare.) Both ways work well.

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Sojourners Magazine May 1994
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