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Old 04-02-2006, 03:29 AM   #1
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Unhappy Bitter eggplant

I've had a craving for an eggplant sandwich for a week, so I went and bought myself a nice eggplant today. I've never actually used eggplants in anything, but I do like to eat it in restaurant dishes. There must be a trick to it though, because my sandwich came out very bitter! All I did was slice the eggplant and brown it in a pan. Is there an extra preparation step that I didn't know of?

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Old 04-02-2006, 05:44 AM   #2
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Dear Biev,

I read about this technique years ago on how to debitterize (word?) an eggplant and it's never failed me. I'm sure that you will get a lot of feedback on this question as well with other ideas. Lightly sprinkle your slices with salt and then place in a pan (I use my oblong) that has been lined with several paper towels. Then place more paper towels on top of the slices. Then place plates, or a smaller oblong pan on top to weight the paper towels down. This method (osmosis) has the salt extracting the bitter juices out the slices thus being absorbed by the paper towels. Then grill, cook, sautee away! Hope this helps.
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Old 04-02-2006, 08:37 AM   #3
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Hi blev, yep, eggplants sure can be bitter.

Have found the least bitter ones I have ever tasted are those we pick fresh from our garden and cook soon after.

But we usually pick them relatively small, whereas the ones we find in the markets, even the local farmer's markets, are larger.

Have guessed that the longer they are away from the garden, and the larger they get, the more bitter they are.

But that is just a guess.

Anyway, as Expat says, find that if I salt the raw slices fairly liberally (I am not a salt freak so maybe my liberally is Expat's lightly) and toss in a collander to drain for a while, it takes a lot of the bitterness out.

Put a plate under the eggplant as it drains and you will be surprised how much fluid comes out.

Great post, am looking forward to reading other folk's ideas.
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Old 04-02-2006, 10:46 AM   #4
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Great tip expa and auntdot......thanks! I haven't cooked with it much in the past but plan to as we'll be having a garden this year. Thanks for asking the question Biev.
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Old 04-02-2006, 12:05 PM   #5
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Aunt Dot is correct. The larger the eggplant, the more mature they are, the more seeds they will yield, and the more bitter they will be. Older eggplant will have a more spongier and fluffier texture. Younger eggplant will have a more firm texture.
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Old 04-02-2006, 12:28 PM   #6
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This is one of the few times I use table salt ...

Slice the eggplant and sprinkle both sides with salt and toss into a colander ... let set for about 30-minutes ... then quickly rinse in cold running tap water (to get rid of the salt and the bitter "juices" it has drawn out) ... then pat dry with paper towels.
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Old 04-02-2006, 12:47 PM   #7
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Isn't there something about a female eggplant vs. a male eggplant being a different size, shape, flavor, or something. Seems like I heard a cook on foodnetwork say something like that before. I'd asked the guy at the farmers market about it last year and he looked at me like I had 2 heads .....so since you guys can't give me a puzzled look I thought I'd ask
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Old 04-02-2006, 07:02 PM   #8
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I will definitely try the salt trick, I have a lot of eggplant left from yesterday. It was a pretty big one, but my grocery store doesn't offer much choice when it comes to vegetables... I was thinking that maybe the seeds were responsible for the bitterness, but they look impossible to remove without throwing out the whole thing!
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Old 04-02-2006, 08:41 PM   #9
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Another tip. My husband says that the same small (and not bitter) eggplant his family buy in Turkey can be found in Asian markets in the U.S. Just a thought. :)
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Old 04-02-2006, 11:24 PM   #10
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This is key west, no fancy imported food here ;o)
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Old 04-03-2006, 10:36 AM   #11
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No such thing as truly female and male eggplant.

The one with the oval dimple on the bootom supposedly has less seeds than the one with a round dimple.

But you are best off with fresh eggplant. As Ironchef says, old eggplants are spongy so pick up and feel the fruit before you buy. Select one that feels heavy for its size, with a glossy skin.
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Old 04-03-2006, 10:44 AM   #12
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I slice and salt the eggplant,(aubergine right?) then leave it on a flat surface, and every time I come to the kitchen and see it 'sweating'(no better way to call it) I use a kitchen roll to dub the water away then turn them over and do likewise, then eventually rince and paper towel dry before cooking.
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Old 04-03-2006, 11:04 AM   #13
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slice and salt, same with several varieties of cucumbers...let drain.
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Old 04-03-2006, 11:05 AM   #14
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also, salting eggplant to remove moisture is imperitive when deep frying eggplant so it soes not splatter everywhere, I deep fry it when i make eggplant parmesan and eggplant fritters.
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:45 PM   #15
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I think the size of the eggplant has more to do with the bitterness than anythng else. That old "salting" technique is found in old cookbooks everywhere back when fresh eggplants from the market or garden were nonexistent.

I haven't salted & drained eggplant - either from the market or from the garden - for many YEARS, & have yet to taste a ONE that was even slightly bitter.

My advice?? STOP FRYING THEM!!! This business of sauteeing them in oil until they're virtual milksops of oil is SO RIDICULOUS.

There is absolutely NO eggplant recipe that can't be wonderfully produced without having to FRY the eggplant. Think about it.
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Old 04-03-2006, 07:01 PM   #16
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Also, it's not just the cooking method, but also the technique. Many home cooks share the same problem (me included when I first started) is that whenever a cooking method is called for that there is no set temperature available (meaning in either celsius or farenheit) such as sauteeing, pan frying, grilling, or deep frying, people tend to cook foods at too low a temperature which results in poor browning, oil saturation, uneven cooking, overcooking, etc. Not surprisingly, these methods also call for the most judgement in doneness, rather than just plopping something into the oven for 30 minutes at a set temp.

Like Breezy noted with the soggyness that can occur from pan frying, eggplant is one of those ingredients that doesn't have a wide margin for error. I fry eggplant but it never gets soggy with oil because I know how to do it. Like I always stress, cooking is a skill, like say painting is. Not everyone can be a Salvador Dali or Vincent Van Gough, but everyone should be able to draw a respectable landscape with enough practice and experimentation. The same thing goes for cooking. Not everyone can be a Thomas Keller or Charlie Trotter, but everyone can be able to learn how to saute or braise properly with enough practice, even to the point where they can replicate many fine dining-type restaurant recipes in their own home.
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Old 04-03-2006, 09:00 PM   #17
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I agree with iron chef about good technique,I dont salt my eggplant but try to pick firm heavy eggplants I mostly grill or oven roast them and have never had a problem.Im wondering if the bitterness isn't in the skin.Maybe you just got a bad eggplant I dont know.
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Old 04-05-2006, 11:18 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BreezyCooking
I think the size of the eggplant has more to do with the bitterness than anythng else. That old "salting" technique is found in old cookbooks everywhere back when fresh eggplants from the market or garden were nonexistent.

I haven't salted & drained eggplant - either from the market or from the garden - for many YEARS, & have yet to taste a ONE that was even slightly bitter.

My advice?? STOP FRYING THEM!!! This business of sauteeing them in oil until they're virtual milksops of oil is SO RIDICULOUS.

There is absolutely NO eggplant recipe that can't be wonderfully produced without having to FRY the eggplant. Think about it.
I didn't use oil. I find most things that can be thrown in a pan produce enough grease or moisture as they cook... It was still bitter
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Old 04-06-2006, 01:17 AM   #19
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Second failure.

I played it safe this time - I sliced it into sticks, took off the skin and the whole seedy part. I salted one side, wiped off the liquid after a few minutes, other side, rinced, wiped off again. I put the sticks in a pan over med-high with no oil, until they were soft and golden-brown. I made myself a yummy-looking sandwich. It's not as bad as the first one, but it's still bitter.

I'm wondering if my eggplant is at fault. We don't get very fresh vegetables down here. It was the bigger kind, a little soft but not too spongy, the skin wasn't wrinkly.

What a waste... I'm throwing another sandwich away.
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Old 04-08-2006, 06:51 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biev
Second failure.

I played it safe this time - I sliced it into sticks, took off the skin and the whole seedy part. I salted one side, wiped off the liquid after a few minutes, other side, rinced, wiped off again. I put the sticks in a pan over med-high with no oil, until they were soft and golden-brown. I made myself a yummy-looking sandwich. It's not as bad as the first one, but it's still bitter.

I'm wondering if my eggplant is at fault. We don't get very fresh vegetables down here. It was the bigger kind, a little soft but not too spongy, the skin wasn't wrinkly.
I think that eggplant was just too old. If you have the inclination, on your next visit to the supermarket where you bought it, ask to see the produce manager and complain. (Julia Child, in one of her cookbooks, said she used to do that all the time and look what she accomplished!).

BTW, if you salt eggplant you need to let it stand for about 30 minutes. Then rinse. A few minutes isn't sufficient time. However, like others have said, I don't find the eggplants I buy at the supermarket to be bitter.
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