In her biweekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.
This week, Susan demonstrates how to peel, slice, and salt eggplant.
By late September, I start to crave cozy things and look for reasons to turn on the stove. Eggplants, with their endless variety (creamy, meaty, lanky, squat) and versatility lead me right into kitchen. Beloved by millions, recipes for baba ghanoush, moussaka, and other sublime eggplant-centric dishes take me around the world.
How to Select and Store Eggplant
Although eggplant is available year-round, its peak season is during the late summer and early fall. When selecting eggplant, be sure to check that the skin is smooth and taut. If it’s ripe, gently (and affectionately) squeezing the flesh will leave a shallow, temporary indentation.
How to Peel, Slice, and Salt Eggplant
In the U.S., the voluptuous pear-shaped globe eggplant is the easiest to find. Its purple-black skin becomes chewy when cooked, so it’s often removed. Its springy, porous flesh sucks in oil, so to keep it from becoming greasy when cooked, eggplant is often salted, rinsed, and dried before cooking.
Place the eggplant on its side on a cutting board. Slice of the stem and the rounded end.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin in long strips, moving lengthwise from the stem to bottom end.
Slice across the eggplant crosswise.
Place slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt -- enough to ensure each slice has been dusted. Let the eggplant sit with the salt for about 15 minutes. (You will see water beads appear on the eggplant's surface.)
Rinse the salt from the eggplant and thoroughly dry it before cooking.
How to Cube Eggplant
Place the eggplant on its side on a cutting board, slice off the ends, and remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, as above.
Rest the bottom end of the eggplant on the cutting board. Cut down through the eggplant lengthwise, every half inch, to create planks.
Stack two planks on the cutting board and slice across them lengthwise, creating half-inch wide sticks.
Cut across the sticks, every half inch, to create half-inch cubes.
Place the eggplant cubes in a colander. Sprinkle with salt, wait about 15 minutes, and then rinse off the salt and thoroughly dry the eggplant before cooking.
Eggplant slices coated in homemade bread crumbs
I’d love to see your tips for prepping eggplant! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!
Photos by Susan Pachikara.
Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Bread Crumbs.
Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest.