Marinated Eggplant (Really)

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Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant

Fried eggplant. Baked eggplant. Marinated eggplant. Baba ganoush. Parmigiano. Moussaka. Ratatouille. I’ve always loved eggplant. I’ve also always considered eggplant a pain in the patootie. Who needs thin slices of salted eggplant lined up on paper towels across every flat surface in the kitchen? You see I’ve always read that eggplant MUST be salted before cooking to bring out its best qualities.

But does it really?

I know from experience that the idea of soaking dried beans overnight isn’t really a necessary step (necessarily). It’s a step I confidently skip plenty of times. Sure, I’ve heard the extra step makes the beans more sweet and creamy.

But does it really?

“Yeah but…” you might be thinking. Beans aren’t really bitter. Eggplant is bitter.

But is it really?

I recently read that the bitterness was bred out of eggplant decades ago so the need to draw out the juices before cooking is a moot point.

But is it really?

I don’t know. So I turned to some of my favorite experts.

Ada Boni, in her 1969 Italian Regional Cooking, salts for an hour, as does her successor queen of Italian food, Marcella Hazan. Nancy Silverton and Judy Rodgers use salt, but as more of a seasoning. Modern cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi and Rachel Roddy tend not to salt. Hmmm…

The LA Times’ recipe for Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant called for salting – so I salted. One taste proved that I must have done something right…

But still I wonder. Did I really? GREG

Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant

Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Los Angeles TimesPublished
Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 2 large Italian eggplants (about 2 3/4 lbs total)
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (plus more as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)
  • 2 large shallots (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup sherry vinegar
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 lemon (juice only)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Trim 1 inch off the top and bottom of each eggplant. Halve each eggplant crosswise, then stand each half on one end and cut each into 8 wedges, for 32 pieces total. Toss the wedges with 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl, then arrange them with one cut side down on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Drain for 2 to 4 hours. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.

Heat a heavy-bottomed large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half cup olive oil, then arrange half the eggplant with one cut side down until the bottoms are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add an additional quarter cup oil, flip the eggplant and fry until the other side is golden brown, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a plate to cool and repeat with the remaining eggplant and an additional three-quarters cup olive oil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour any oil left in the pan into a bowl. Return 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, or add more fresh oil to make 2 tablespoons. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add both kinds of vinegar, the thyme, and 2 tablespoons water. Swirl the liquids and scrape any browned bits from the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the honey. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the browned eggplant and gently stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the eggplant softens but is not mushy, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook until the eggplant softens further and one-eighth inch of liquid remains in the skillet, about 5 minutes more. Taste and add more honey and salt, if desired.

Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator and chill completely, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.

When ready to serve, remove the eggplant from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Stir in the lemon juice, then garnish with the parsley and sesame seeds (if using).