Dear Noelle, I don't make homemade manicotti shells. I buy my shells imported from Italy at an Italian store. But,…
Buongiorno and welcome to Lisa’s Italian Kitchen. Today we’re going to learn how to properly drain an eggplant.
You know, being southern Italian we use so much eggplant in our cuisine. An eggplant is such a nutritious, delicious, versatile vegetable. In fact, I’m half Sicilian and we joke that eggplant is our national vegetable on the island of Sicily.
But frequently when people in the United States order or eat eggplant they say that it’s bitter or tough and they wonder why it doesn’t taste the way it tasted when they were in Italy. Well I’m going to let you in on a little secret. That’s because eggplant is full of bitter juices and we need to let those juices drain out before we cook eggplant.
Very simple and this is how it’s done. You just take your eggplant and cut off the two ends, and then we’re going to peel the eggplant. So now that we’ve peeled the eggplant, what I’m going to do is slice it in rounds. Again depending on your recipe and what it calls for you may be cubing your eggplant, you may be slicing it lengthwise, but most of my recipes I use it in rounds.
So I’m going to cut them just about a quarter of an inch thick, each slice. Very simple, and now to drain the eggplant, what we do is we take a colander. A colander of any size, a colander is just what you use to drain your pasta, and we place it over another dish. This dish is going to serve to catch the bitter juices from the eggplant that drain out.
So we have our dish and we have our colander, take our eggplant and we’re going to layer them. On top of each layer we’re going to take Sicilian sea salt that is coarse. Now as you probably know Sicilian sea salt comes in fine, which we use at the table and in our recipes and then it comes in coarse.
The coarse sea salt is what we use for draining the bitter juices out of the eggplant and we also use it to salt our pasta water. Now what we’re going to do is, a little tip that I learned from my Sicilian grandmother. In order to ensure that all the bitter juices drain from the eggplant we want to weight the eggplant on top. My grandmother used to get her iron and put it on top of the eggplant.
I prefer not to use my iron when it comes to food, so I just take a bowl, you can take any plate or any bowl and just put it like this and that weight, just that weight of the dish or a lid of a pan, anything that you have around, is going to weight down the eggplant and ensure that all the bitter juices drain out.
This you can put either into your kitchen sink, or leave it right here on your kitchen counter for approximately 30 minutes. When you return this is what you will find. Remove whatever dish you used on the top of the eggplant to weight it down and you’ll notice that your eggplant have shrunken in size, thinner and have absorbed basically all of the coarse sea salt that you put on each layer of eggplant.
You can barely see any remnant of salt. By absorbing that, that caused the bitter juices to drain out of the eggplant, and underneath what do we have? This brown dirty water is actually the bitter juices from the eggplant. So look at all of that that drained out in only 30 minutes. So what we do now is throw away that the bitter juices, take each slice of eggplant, rinse it under cold water, ensuring that you get any remnant of salt or brown juice that might be on the pieces of eggplant, pat them dry with a piece of paper towel and then proceed to your favorite recipe.
Maybe it’s sauteing them in extra virgin olive oil to layer them with pasta or in parmigiana or maybe chopping them and using them in a salad dish and sauteing them. Whatever you choose to do, I guarantee you will have sweet delicious eggplant since you have successfully removed all the bitter juices.
So, Bon Appetito! Ciao!