Eggplant is fragile and bruises easily. It should be used as quickly as possible– within 2-3 days is best, if you can. Keep in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place, (50° is ideal). If using within a day or so, just set on your counter, in a dark corner, or in a cupboard. If not using for a few days and the refrigerator is your best option, wrap in a paper towel, put into an open plastic bag (it needs to breathe), and use the warmest area possible such as the vegetable bin- if it will fit without shoving it in, thus damaging skin and bruising it. Do not cut or wash it until you’re ready to use.
Once you cut into eggplant, the flesh that’s exposed will start to turn brown and then needs to be used as quickly as possible. You can brush with a little lemon to help keep browning to a minimum.
Eggplant is not edible raw; it needs to be cooked. Because it’s “spongy”, it absorbs juices and marinade flavors very well, and so is a definite star on the grill, in a stew, or when roasted.
You don’t need to peel it, unless you want to.
Tips: After brushing with lemon, lightly salt your sliced or chopped pieces of eggplant and put into a sieve over a bowl or sink and allow to drain at least an hour. Pat dry to get as much liquid out as you can. This method pulls the bitter juices from the eggplant, and keeps too much oil from being absorbed especially when sautéing, so eggplant is less mushy. Use very little oil (1-2 tsp. should be enough) when sautéing eggplant!
Eggplant can be roasted unpeeled and whole (remove stem). This works well if you'll be pureeing the flesh. Just poke a small slit somewhere, and put on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet, then bake at 375° for 30 minutes, or until it’s very soft at the stem end. If I will be using the pureed eggplant in a dish that calls for garlic, I’ll make several slits in the skin, and push in little pieces of garlic; boom, done!
Another nifty trick is to cut the eggplant in half and lay face down on the parchment, then bake.
If I've roasted very thin, small eggplant, I serve them at room temperature on a veggie tray with dip, in a salad, or served as a side- drizzle with a little balsamic or other vinegar, season, and sprinkle with fresh herbs.
Peel (if desired) and slice or chop the eggplant. Lightly salt and drain. Blanch by dunking in boiling water with lemon juice added (¼ c. per gallon) for about 3 minutes.
Cool, drain and lay out on paper or dish towels in a single layer to dry a bit (or pat with towels). Freeze the slices or pieces single layer on a parchment lined, rimmed cookie sheet and freeze for an hour or two. Then put into a freezer Ziploc bag. Frozen eggplant will be somewhat mushy when thawed.
Liz Talley, Urban Graze
All rights reserved©