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Frying Eggplants like a Persian Mama

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Very easy way of frying sliced eggplants in an oven with very little oil, yielding beautiful, tasty and very light eggplants with no effort.

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Fried eggplants are used in many great dishes, but they pose a unique culinary problem. They soak up as much oil as you give them, and how many or us have ended up with fatty sponges that will choke even the most ferocious appetites?

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I have rarely used Mrs Eleonora Consoli's time-tested, tradition-approved but alas rather time-intensive way of Frying eggplants like a Sicilian Mama.

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The way I used to do was to fry them in a large, shallow pan with only a very thin coating of olive oil. This worked great but unless you are cooking only one very small eggplant in a very large pan, it takes ages. You can see for instance my Pasta N'Casciata or Sicilian Cash Cow articles for his method. This is my go-to procedure for smaller amounts of eggplants - it yield beautifully colored, tasty and very unfatty fried eggplants. Better than deep frying.

The other day I discovered Persianmama.com, a very cool blog about Persian cuisine made by a Persian lady who goes into great details in her post. This is not the way other persian mamas fry their eggplants (they go the fatty route) but a novel way described by this lady. And I tried out her way of oven-frying a large amount of eggplants with very little effort. See how it goes!

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I never peel totally my eggplants since the day a Kurdish acquaintance demonstrated to me that a bit of peel left on adds to the taste - how right she was! Just try to leave some peel on and see how you like it before deciding exactly how much you want to remove. Leaving all of it it not a good option as the peel remains chewy - you need to peel lenghwise...

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...then slice crosswise so that the peel you leave makes bite-size morsels.

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Then lay them over as many baking pans as you need - or you have. Here I am using one with a special non-stick coating that I am very pleased with. Using a stainless steel pan would mean more oil needed - or more cleaning later.

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Then spray a little olive oil on top, or even better, use a kitchen brush.

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Aim for as fine an oily mist as your mister will give you - here those drops were too big. I season with a a little salt.

I have never had the need to do the salt-drain-wash routine that some people do, to "extract the bitter juices" as the eggplants we get here - or that I grow myself - are not bitter to start with. Furthermore this always leaves them too salty for me.

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Bake in a dry oven at about 185C for 30 minutes at first, then check, remove and insert back in the oven in the opposite direction so that all egplants are sort of evenly exposed to the heat, flip them if you see that they color more on one side or another, and continue until the color is beautifully browned and they are soft throughout, about 45 minutes in total. But please do rely on your eyes and tasting and not on numbers.

I shall show you later how I used these eggplants.

Perfect oven fried eggplants with very little oil - and very little effort!


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37 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Saxit
I'm one of those that enjoy the really fatty fried eggplants. ;) I also leave all the skin on because after soaking up all the oil, the slighly chewy skin is the only thing that holds a slice of eggplant together. :P
But yeah, I don't do the salt thing either, I don't think they're bitter.
  • FX's answer→ Yes Saxit seriously fatty eggplants taste really nice but how many can you eat before you drop down?

  • #3
  • Comment by James
Thanks for an excellent post. I want to share this with my wife. She always soak hers in OIL. This method is the most healthy way without sacrifice the favor.  
  • FX's answer→ Ah well she can always add some oil back if she finds it is missing!

  • #5
  • Comment by TFP
In my part of the world we almost always leave the peel on, which adds a great textural contrast especially in sandwiches. One of the most popular sandwiches in Israel is called "Sabich", which is essentially a mixture of fried eggplants along with hummus, boiled potatoes, a boiled egg and some salad (which usually consists of chopped tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers) all stuffed into a pita bread and topped with some tahini and amba (which is an Iraqi sauce made from ground fenugreek and green mangoes).
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot this is really interesting, I looked up both sabich and amba they are now on my must-cook-next list thanks to you! Would you have some recipe for serious amba? I grow my own fenugreek from seeds found in my spice rack so that is available, and some recipe mentionned 2 kinds of mangoes, one yellow, one green. I'd rather cook something authentic!

  • #7
  • Comment by Joan
I tried your oven method and they turned out delicious.  Im going to see if this would work roasting in cubes shapes.
  • FX's answer→ Well Joan that is ... quick! From computer screen to the plate in less than 2 hours, well done!

I love eggplant but rarely make it because the frying is just as you describe. I will definitely try this method! Thanks!
  • FX's answer→ Well good luck! I should measure the exact amount of oil used by all three methods to see how much does an aubergine actually drink.

What a time saving, and oil and artery saving way to cook eggplant. The salt thing doesn't work well, anyways. Salt may penetrate only a millimeter into a slice of bitter eggplant-that leaves a lot of bitter eggplant untouched by salt. The older, larger eggplants are more likely to be bitter (and need a touch of sugar), so go for younger, smaller ones. I like the long Japanese eggplants, rather than the large pear shaped ones so often sold in the US.  
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Ivan, yes this is really efficient for larger quantities. I think restaurants must use something similar.

  • #13
  • Comment by Jan van den Hemel
Nice to see you post a lot of vegetarian stuff now that you are back :-)
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, yes vegetables are nice too! But these eggplants were later used in a lamb stew...

  • #15
  • Comment by TFP
Hmmm, there's no single recipe for amba, but the general idea is to ferment unripe mangoes for a few days in a brine (the ratio is usually 2-4 teaspoons of salt per one cup of hot water) along with hot paprika, ground fenugreek seeds, citric acid (if you wish, you can substitute it with either Amchur Powder or lemon juice) and a spice mixture called "Baharat" (the Iraqi version). You could also add cumin and turmeric if you like, Amba is one of those sauces which you taste as you go...
  • FX's answer→ So the mango is fermented like sauerkraut (lactic acid)? This sounds really tasty!

  • #17
  • Comment by Catherine
I recently developed a method of eggplant frying that is either the best or the worst of both worlds, depending on how you look at it. I fry them in a pan of oil, the "normal" way, and then I put the fried slices on a wire rack in a baking pan in a 200-250 (Fahrenheit) oven and bake them for a while. The oil drips out of them and they keep browning, and they come out PERFECT.
  • FX's answer→ This sounds like a good method too! But how much oil remain in the eggplants?

  • #19
  • Comment by Catherine
It's a lot less oil than in the frying-pan-only method, but I imagine probably more than in this method. It's also a lot more time-consuming. But if you are ever inclined to experiment further with eggplant frying methods, I highly recommend it.
  • FX's answer→ I should make a comparative experiments to advance human knowledge in eggplant frying, that would concern many cooks!

Growing up in a family where eggplant slices were liberally coated with bread crumbs and pan fried, then layered with tomato sauce and cheese - I'm always on the lookout for a healthier version. Of course grilling is an option for lower fat prep but this post is very helpful in case I can't cook outside. PS My dad was Napolitano ;)

Happy you're back!
Chiffonade
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Chiffonade, I adore Neapolitan cuisine!

  • #23
  • Comment by Nina
This is interesting, thank you. Incidentally, eggplants, being cooked like an Indian mama, the traditional way is not going to have lots and lots of oil in it. It is just placed on a thin wire rack, after one has greased the skin with some oil. Put it on the stove top, and remember to turn around, till the skin is burnt off. You have lots of lovely pulp now, without any skin, and this is going to make mashed brinjals and potatoes, mashed brinjals on their own flavored with fenugreek, Other herbs, like coriander, and so on.
This is called a Bhurta _Bhoorta. And it has been the staple diet of the North Indian part of the subcontinent, for millenniums, Especially when it is eaten with copious quantities of buttermilk lassi, and raw onions.
  • FX's answer→ Ah yes this is good too, but to make roasted eggplant pulp most mamas use an oven and little oil... but this is a fair point, thanks!

  • #25
  • Comment by Bi
What about frying with grapeseed oil. I always get great results with that. I Cut them with a dry knife (clean the knife after every cut) then fry them as I cut ... Have you tried that?
  • FX's answer→ Yes grapeseed is good for high temperature, but do you cut them in a special manner or just slices?

Simple and simply exquisite. (Didn't I tell you he is back!)
  • FX's answer→ Good to hear it worked for you!

  • #29
  • Comment by Bi
I don't cut them in any special way. My husband tends to like better with lesser skin. I confess, I don't mind it. The tricks that I use are only the dry knife to prevent the eggplants from changing colour and I check the eggplant's "bellybutton" ... elongated means more seeds (female eggplants, as I heard them being called) and very round navels means fewer seeds, or a male eggplant. I hardly ever get a big variety of them here in South Brazil, so the navels tell me which to buy. That's all I really do.
  • FX's answer→ Bianca, this is a very good tip to check for the belly button, I will start doing that from today on!

  • #31
  • Comment by John Iwaniszek
It strikes me that breadfruit might be very similarly prepared.
  • FX's answer→ Ah this is one fruit that does not grow in Switzerland, I have never had one in my kitchen!

  • #33
  • Comment by Christina
I sometimes find that just baking them dries them out too much, or they are brown before they are tender.  where I've had the most success in replicating pan-fried eggplant's texture and flavor is this:

1) Steam eggplant slices or cubes until just tender (microwaving also works well)
2) Spritz or drizzle with oil and seasonings and roast or broil in the oven until nicely browned

It works great - seriously! One of my favorite party dishes is eggplant sliced fairly thin, steamed and "oven fried", then mixed into plain Greek yogurt flavored witha clove of minced garlic and salt and pepper. It's incredible with pita, chips, or crudite - much more than the sum of its parts. A sprinkle of sumac and drizzle of olive oil gild the lily.
  • FX's answer→ Now this is a really good idea, Christina! I will try that in the combi oven - what do you say, 40' @ 85C and 100% humidity then 10' @ 220C and 0% ?

  • #35
  • Comment by Joy D'Alessio
Does this method also work if you cut the eggplant lengthwise, in planks?
  • #36
  • Comment by Joyce
This is how I have done mine for years to avoid the oil soaked sponges, I like most of the peel on as well, but to make it easier to bite through, I use a citrus zester to make scores lengthwise. I must try the sumac with them.
  • FX's answer→ Good tip the citrus zester!


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