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How to off-set bitterness

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
What would I look for to off-set the bitterness of a naturally bitter ingredient?

An example would be a TV cook I saw made eggplant parmesian. He used sliced eggplant and used it like you would pasta in lasagna. He didn't try to pick out the seeds. I'm not very experienced with eggplant, but I'm told the seeds are bitter, so I always pick them out with a knife. This is just an example that got me thinking.

Would you use something sweet? Salty? etc.

Slim
post #2 of 10
I don't know that the seeds are bitter in eggplant I do know that some of its juices can be bitter. One technique is to heavily salt eggplant and let it sit and drain on a rack for about 1 hour. The salt leeches some of the bitter juices out and can be rinsed and patted dry. This technique is sometims also applied to cucumber but more to get some moisture out.

As far as I know bitterness is mostly an issue of American tastes. Many cultures embrace and incorporate bitter herbs, leaves and fruits into their cooking. Many French salad greens are very bitter.
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"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
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post #3 of 10
Ditto what Breton said. I've also heard if you use small rather than large egg plants that the problem is much less. Can't attest to it, just heard it.
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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post #4 of 10
Italian (large round) eggplant are bitter. Chinese and Japanese (long narrow) eggplant are much less bitter.

The moisture inside the eggplant is bitter. In order to cure the bitterness, eggplant must be "cooked" twice. One way of cooking is to salt the eggplant on a rack. The salt will draw the water which will drain. Wipe the salt off the eggplant. Do not rinse it, or you will just recreate the problem.

The eggplant can also be sauteed or grilled until it sweats, then drained, and finally finished in whatever way you desire.

BDL
post #5 of 10
I've had sharp-tasting eggplant, that sort of (slightly) burns the tongue, though i wouldn't describe it as bitter, and i;ve used many kinds of eggplants, long, thin ones over a foot long, white ones, big round pinkish-purple ones, etc etc. The older they get the stronger the taste. You can salt them first, but the main reason to salt them is to prevent them from absorbing too much oil when you fry them since they tend to be like sponges, but i never found them unpleasant when not salted to drain them. I suppose if you get old or gone-to-seed eggplants (where the skin is wrinkled and not shiny, they don;t feel really firm to the touch, and the seeds are dark and distinctive from the flesh instead of being barely noticeable and white) you might get a bitter taste, or possibly a stronger sharp taste. I don;t know about the chinese and japanese eggplants - sicilian eggplants are very long and very thin, some italian eggplants are quite small. Maybe your local asian grocery stores simply have fresher produce.

As for other bitter foods, you can certainly add sugar, just a hint.
I like to make belgian endives and radicchio by slowly stewing them in butter with a little lemon. (i do it separately so the colors remain separate, then serve in the same dish) The endives are usually mildly and pleasantly bitter, but the radicchio can be quite bitter. In this case i put half a tsp of sugar in them.

Chicory is a very popular cooked green here, and the whole point of it is its bitterness, so they just boil it and serve with lemon and oil or they refry it in oil and garlic, and enjoy its bitterness. I don;t like it, i have to say.
But i find that a little more salt makes it more appealing.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #6 of 10
Siduri hit it on the head....the fresher the eggplant the less bitter.

To cut bitter in dressings I add either more oil or something sweet (honey usually)

Rapini is one of my favorite winter comfort foods....anchovies,garlic, hot pepper flakes, pecorino.....chicken stock to smooth it out.....pasta.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #7 of 10
I've been told that these days, eggplants (Aubergines) are grown not to be bitter. I can confirm that I havnt ever had to salt them. I put them straight into Thai curries, Veg stews with no bitterness.
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #8 of 10
Salt generally elevates bitterness in foods that have tannins, fat added to specific applications softens the bitterness.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #9 of 10
This thread is taking an interesting direction. My advice about either pre-salting then draining, or cooking Mediterranean eggplant twice is very much "conventional wisdom," and didn't seem at all controversial. Perhaps, as was said, aubergine is no longer as bitter as a result of improved hybrids. Perhaps it's something else.

What Evvah! Anytime a prep-step can be avoided it's a good thing.

One more thing just for Slim -- the center of the eggplant which contains the seeds is the part which becomes most pudding-like and rich when cooked. You use a lot scooping it out. If you find your eggplant bitter, despite improved genetics,etc., don't "offset" or take the seeds, salt or precook. Umkay?

BDL
post #10 of 10
Brinjal bohot theek asse' koob bhal

In my experience in Assam, eggplant is great the way they make it there!
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