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Eggplant is a wonderfully versatile food that can be prepared in a number of ways. It lacks flavor on its own, so marinating eggplant is one way to enhance it. The texture of an uncooked eggplant is porous and spongelike. It will absorb an enormous amount of oil unless the cook guards against this by following a set of steps. A successfully marinated eggplant must first have its bitter juices removed as well.
The first thing a cook needs to know in order to create a successful marinated eggplant dish is what to look for when purchasing. Globe eggplants, which are considerably larger and more pear-shaped than long, narrow Chinese eggplants, should be examined for smooth skin. Eggplants with bruised or broken skin will have damaged flesh; in a vegetable this tender, that condition is best avoided. The wise cook will also select an eggplant that is relatively light in weight. This means the vegetable contains less of the bitter juices and will be easier to prepare.
Marinating eggplant is a popular way to augment the otherwise uninteresting flavor. Even well-chosen eggplants contain a lot of bitter juice, so in order for a marinade to work, the cook must begin by draining off as much of the bitter juice as possible. The best way to do this is to slice or cube the eggplant and cover each piece with a lot of salt. Layering these salted pieces in a colander and weighing them with a heavy platter or saucepan helps the salt draw out the bitter juices, which fall through the colander’s holes and drain away.
Eggplants are notorious when it comes to absorbing oil. Whether the vegetable is fried, baked, or grilled, it does not cook well without some added fat. There are a few things a cook can do to limit the amount of fat the marinating eggplant absorbs.
One method is to mix a small amount of oil with vinegar or soy sauce, some lemon, and flavor enhancers, such as ginger or garlic, in a large zip-top baggie. Diced or sliced eggplant added to the baggie permits all sides of the cut vegetable to be equally exposed to the marinade at once. Marinating eggplant in a glass dish permits the pieces at the bottom to absorb more oil than those higher up, but using a baggie alleviates that problem.
Alternatively, spraying all sides with cooking oil spray before marinating eggplant pieces creates a kind of block that inhibits the oil in the marinade from being absorbed too rapidly. This method permits the cook to use a greater amount of vinegar in the marinade and much less oil. Some cooks say that boiling diced eggplant in water for a few minutes before marinating also keeps the eggplant from absorbing too much oil.
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