Long ago, I threatened to post the unlovely but effective method of peeling cooked eggplants that I learned the hard way, in a kibbutz kitchen. We used to make baba ghanouj routinely for a thousand members–something like 50 to 75 baked eggplants went into it each time, mixed in a stand mixer the size of a wheelbarrow with a base that was cemented into the floor. You can’t be fooling around with spoons and forks when you’re working on that scale. Instead, we cooled the eggplants in a huge colander and then started squeezing them out as though they were pastry bags or tubes of toothpaste.
It takes a bit of practice…to say the least. But each eggplant only takes about half a minute to empty into the colander, and once you get the method down, the skin stays together and is just about completely clean inside. Very effective. Not very dignified, though, unless you do it enough to get good at it.
However, since I have no vanity whatsoever, I finally took some pictures (not easy to shoot while actually squeezing the eggplants, so don’t expect photogenic–eggplant is only pretty raw…) and have steeled myself to walk you through it. Wear goggles and a hairnet the first time if you’re afraid of flying goop, or make your little sister do it first. And don’t forget to rinse your hands (and arms) well right afterward, because the juice is still a bit caustic and will make them itch after awhile. Anyway, the following is for if your little sister refuses to take the bait. Click directly on any of the pictures if you want a closer view.
How to Squeeze an Eggplant
First, microwave your eggplant(s) (best if you’re only doing up to 3; any more and it’s worth roasting them for a whole hour in the oven at 400F). Scrub them well, cut off the cap (watch out for thorns!), rub or sprinkle a little salt on the damp skins, and set them to microwave 10 minutes on HIGH, until they’re soft and collapsed.
Next, let the eggplant cool enough to handle–this is probably the most important part. Trying to squeeze out a scalding eggplant leads to explosions of scalding eggplant goop, plus the peel usually toughens a little as it cools, which makes ruptures a little less likely.
–Am I making it sound good yet? No?–hang in there.
Set the cooling eggplant cut-end-down in a colander over a bowl to drain off some of the juices. If you have the asbestos-like fingers for it, you can poke a hole in the cut end while it’s still hot and earn yourself untold macho points as long as you only wince after you’ve slunk off to the bathroom. Never let ’em see you cry. If you’re not that brash, you’ll have to poke a hole in the cut end once it cools. That’s the easy part.
Once the eggplant’s cooled enough to wrap your hands around it, it’s showtime. Keep the cut end facing down.
Cup your hands around the fat round end at the top and very gradually push in and downward, closing your hands over the top, until the pulp inside starts to give (it should be moving down toward the hole you poked in the cut end, not up toward your hair!) Start to squeeze gently and as the pulp moves down, pinch the now-empty pocket of skin at the top.
Hold it tight while continuing to squeeze downward with even pressure as though you were using a pastry bag.
Try not to let the peel split–if it does, do your best to squeeze the pulp down into the colander anyway. You’re going to wash your hands afterward anyway so don’t panic.
Eventually, the pulp will flop out of the bottom opening and you’ll be left with an empty peel.
That’s about it. A lot of agony for a few seconds, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not a bad trick. The baba ghanouj came out pretty well too! B’te’avon!
Filed under: cooking, DASH Diet, Dips, Microwave tricks, Oddities, sauces and condiments, Vegetabalia | Tagged: aubergine, baba ghanouj, eggplant, Jewish cooking, kitchen techniques, mezze, Middle Eastern cooking, vegetable cooking |