“Japanese eggplants are pleasantly tender and they don’t need much force to make the flesh too creamy, and the skin is never leathery or tough,” says Morocco. “It wants to play ball.”
“Honestly,” he admits, “big, squashed, crooked eggplants are just terrible and should never be cooked with you.” He never cooks with eggplants that are larger than medium, “unless I’m making eggplant parm, and even then that speaks in favor of the transforming” process of making parm more than anything. “Noted.
Notice the cross-hatch
YuChen is a huge fan of eggplant. In her recipe for eggplant roasted with harissa, she cuts crosshatches into the pulp of eggplant halves and then rubs a harissa garlic caper paste into the pulp so it soaks when roasted in the oven. You could even cross an eggplant if you only have the energy to season it with garlic salt.
Don’t be afraid of fat
Since eggplant is literally a sponge, you may be afraid of adding more and more oil as you sear it on the stove. The key is to add little by little, says Chris. “It’s better to spread it out so that the different faces of the eggplant have a chance to absorb the oil, and that oil also helps distribute the heat of the pan.”
If you end up with too much oil in the pan, take a tip from Andy Baraghani’s recipe for eggplant with warm cinnamon walnut dressing: use a slotted spoon or tongs to get the cooked eggplant and leave the excess oil in the pan .
In an ideal world, Chris adds, you should put the sliced eggplant in a bowl of oil to cover each side of it. In Sarah Jampel’s eggplant and ricotta sandwich, coat the eggplant slices with oil before cooking them in a nonstick pan, then brush the other side before turning them. Clever!
Season with abandon
Green beans have a light green taste and a snappy texture. Tomatoes are bursting with juicy sweetness. Eggplant, bless your heart, is a little more on the mild side. It takes a lot of seasoning – salt, spices – to be successful. I noticed some reviews of our eggplant noodles mentioned that theirs were bland. If you’re following a recipe, keep trying and add more salt or seasoning to keep up with the size of your eggplant. A larger eggplant may need twice the amount of seasoning as a smaller one. “If in doubt, add salt,” says Morocco
A beginner’s mistake is not to fully cook the eggplant. “Nobody wants medium-rare aubergines,” says Morocco, who sounds as if he knows from experience. A raw eggplant is crispy and tasteless, like a raw potato. When it is cooked, “it should be very tender, all of the meat should be a bit of pudding. If you have to, hammer it a little, hit it around and let it collapse. “
When roasting eggplants, as in YuChen’s recipe, “make sure you give them enough space so they can cook evenly,” she says. “You want to be roasted properly – not steamed.”
Lean into the mush
There’s a time and place to let eggplants become their truest selves: porridge. The pudding nature of eggplants was made for moutabal, a smoky Lebanese dip, or eggplants braised in trini, generously seasoned with garlic and curry powder. This eggplant confit practically melts in your mouth. In one of my favorite BA eggplant recipes, halved eggplants become custard and you top them with crispy beef. That brings me to our bottom line. If you accidentally cook eggplants for too long, trying hard not to undercook them, mix them in dip and call them dinner. And the next time you do it, it will be on purpose.
Now you know how to cook eggplant …
Spicy braised eggplant noodles
A noodle dish during the week that comes together in no time thanks to a power triple of gochujang, miso and tomato paste.
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