Freshly-cut eggplant, when exposed to the air, quickly oxidizes and turns black, kind of the way an apple goes brown after it is cut and exposed to air. Black eggplant can ruin the appearance of a dish.
To prevent this from happening, prepare a bowl of water in advance prior to cutting eggplant. Then add a tablespoonful of milk to it. Add the freshly cut eggplant to this and it will not blacken.
Other ways to stop oxidation or slow it when cutting eggplant include putting a dash of lemon into water and dipping the cut eggplant into that mixture.
Choosing an Eggplant
Before you start cutting eggplant you'll want to choose a good eggplant. Here are some tips to help you get the best value―and taste―out of the eggplant:
- You want your eggplant to be firm, but not hard. As for the outside layer, look for something that is smooth and shiny. If the skin is dull, it may not be the best quality. Make sure there are no brown blemishes or soft spots on the eggplant.
- Take a peek at the stem and see if it is a healthy green. For optimal freshness, make sure it is not mushy or moldy.
- When you bring home an eggplant, make sure it is not wrapped up completely in plastic.
- Note that larger eggplants could be more bitter in taste and have more seeds inside. Choosing smaller eggplants is generally best, though other experts have said that the size does not matter and instead the firmness and skin can be a telltale sign of a great eggplant.
- Eggplant can be left at room temperature for a day or two. Store the eggplant in your refrigerator, but not for more than a week. Some people say to perforate a plastic bag and store it in there. Prepare the entire thing at once; if you have the excess, puree and freeze it with lemon juice for future use. You can also blanch or steam it and freeze it, as it will keep for six to eight months frozen.
- They say that male eggplants have fewer seeds. How can you tell if the eggplant is male? Look at the bottom and see if there is a brown circle there. That will mean it is a male. A female eggplant will have a long brown mark on the bottom.
- As a general rule of thumb when choosing an eggplant, keep in mind that plump, rounded eggplants tend to be juicier and more ideal for baking and casseroles. Those that are slender and long are typically less juicy and better off fried.