Many recipes call for salting and rinsing eggplant before cooking it to draw out its bitterness. Brining can be used in place of salting and has the added advantage of helping eggplant keep its shape when it's cooked, whether your recipe calls for baking, frying, or grilling.
This technique of soaking sliced or chopped eggplant in salt water is particularly useful when making grilled eggplant. You can brine eggplant for use in any recipe (whether it calls for brining or not) using this method.
All you need is salt, water, and a large bowl:
- Fill a large bowl with 1 tablespoon salt and about 1/2 cup hot water. Stir until salt dissolves completely.
- Fill the bowl with about 2 quarts cold water. The water should taste salty, more or less as salty as the ocean.
- Cut the eggplant into what size and shape you need for the recipe. Submerge the pieces in the salted water. Use an upside-down plate or pot lid to weigh down the eggplant so it is fully submerged in the water.
- Let the eggplant sit in the brine for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Drain the eggplant and pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels.
Once the eggplant is brined and patted dry, you can proceed with whatever recipe you like. A few simple eggplant recipes I turn to regularly that benefit from brining include:
- Baked Eggplant a tasty alternative to fried eggplant—brining means you get all the tenderness and flavor with a fraction of the fat.
- Crispy Eggplant Sticks are a New Orleans classic and brining makes sure these sticks stay sticks, easy to pick up and dip as you like.
- Eggplant Parmesan gets a meatier yet extremely tender texture when the eggplant slices are brined before being cooked and layered into the classic Italian casserole.
- Eggplant Prosciutto Pizza is all the prettier when the slices of eggplant stay slices to decorate the top of the pie.
- Grilled Eggplant is all the more appetizing when the slices keep their shape on the grilled vegetable platter after they're cooked.
Really, the only time not to brine eggplant is when you want it to fall apart when you cook it, as in an eggplant dip or eggplant soup, or if you're grilling a whole eggplant with the plan of having it fall apart into a natural purée,