Bitter Truths: Why You Shouldn’t Sweat Eggplant
We roasted many eggplants in testing the Pasta alla Norma recipe, and along the way we engaged in the age-old debate: to salt or not to salt? Many cooks argue that salting eggplant and letting it rest, or “sweat,” for an hour or so before cooking draws out the vegetable’s bitter juices. However, according to Nicholas Clee, author of Don’t Sweat the Aubergine (Short Books, 2005), the varieties of eggplant typically available today don’t have the bitterness that characterized popular varieties of decades ago. He also points out that the salting doesn’t eliminate bitterness; it simply masks it. To prove his point, Clee performed an experiment: he presalted half an eggplant and salted the other half right before roasting. Cooked side by side, their taste was exactly the same; one was no more bitter than the other. Another argument in favor of salting claims that it draws moisture out of the eggplant’s cells that will, in turn, block the absorption of oil during cooking. But we know from experience that a salted eggplant still soaks up quite a bit of oil. So, in the end, we’re with Clee on this one: don’t sweat it.