Ask Chef Emily: How to Save Unused Eggplant

A reader asks about saving unused eggplant, I deep dive for @ediblelongisland

A photo posted by Chef Emily Peterson (@chefemilyp) on

What is the best way to save an unused chunk of eggplant? Sometimes I have more than a recipe calls for and I don’t want to waste it.  Thanks very much. –Amy R., New York, NY

Dear Amy,

What a fabulous and seemingly straightforward question that touches so many points when it comes to recipes! So allow me to meander for a moment before the big reveal.

When someone writes a recipe, the modern editing method says to call for the eggplant by its finished volume. For instance, 1 cup diced eggplant. (Of course the recipe writer in me would call for eggplant by weight to account for the negative space of one’s heart-shaped measuring cups, but that’s a different story entirely).

The goal of recipe writing is to lead the home cook to success by anticipating all the stumbling blocks and removing them before publication.

This diverges from a less precise method of calling for 1 eggplant, diced. How big is the eggplant? What variety? The goal of recipe writing is to lead the home cook to success by anticipating all the stumbling blocks and removing them before publication.

This results in nubs of eggplant hanging around when one whole eggplant provided too much. So to your question. This is a good spot to begin trying to trust your instincts, if it isn’t something that comes naturally to you. If you have a small amount of eggplant left after your 1 cup is accounted for, and you are making say, baba ganoush, does your instinct tell you to just use it? Then do that. Same for fried thin slices layered into parmesan, or chunks sautéed into a tomato sauce.

In fact, I’m having a hard time imagining when a little more eggplant would do any harm. You may need to add a touch more salt or liquid to the pan, but otherwise, I’d add the extra, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

If you are looking in to your pot and thinking, “Nope, that will definitely be too much eggplant,” then the next recommendation I have is to dice it up, toss with some olive oil and salt and roast in a single layer on a sheet pan at 425ºF for 15 minutes or so. After that you can whiz it in a food processor with some lemon juice, but only if you want to. Either way, cooked eggplant keeps much better and is far more convenient than having to start from scratch, with (I’m guessing here) not enough eggplant for your next recipe.

But again to your question, what to do with the unused chunk? May I refer to my photograph? I saved several chunks of eggplant using common methods. The two pieces labeled “Control” refer to one slice that was left in the fridge with nothing, just on a plate. The other is a fresh slice from a new fruit.

I decided on lemon thinking that the acidulation would slow the oxidation process but instead, it drew the pigment of the skin into the pulp, see bottom middle.

I tried salting because many recipes advise salting eggplant to “draw out the bitterness.” (Again, a whole other story, but for the record: misguided at best). My thought was just extend the salt exposure time. This resulted in something very spongy and discolored and… salty.

Against my instinct, I tossed a piece into a container of water. This method works for storing radishes, carrots, cut potatoes, but I thought the eggplant would become a brown sludge and make for a good photograph. I was wrong! Of all the saving methods, letting it bob around in a pint of tap water preserved the freshness and the flavor.

So if you must save it: float in fresh water. Alternately roast, purée and serve with a side of pita chips and glass of riesling.

Have a question about food and cooking? Email me at chefemily@sharpandhot.com to see your answer online!

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