Perfectly sauteed eggplant has a lightly browned exterior with a melt-in-your-mouth interior. Include it in a stir fry or add it to pasta. Eggplant has a sponge-like quality that can cause it soak up inordinate amounts of cooking oil and become greasy. If crowded into the pan, sauteed eggplant may turn soggy and limp.
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Choose the Eggplant
Aubergine globe eggplants may be cubed and sauteed. Peel them first as the skin can be chewy. They also benefit from salting, which helps purge bitter juices and collapses some of the oil-absorbing air pockets in the fruit.
Cut the eggplant into the desired shape -- cubes, slices or strips.
Sprinkle the eggplant with a generous amount of coarse salt and lay in a colander to drain. Allow the eggplant to rest, salted, for about 1 hour.
Rinse all the salt off the eggplant and squeeze the pieces dry with your hands. Pat any remaining moisture away with a dry paper towel. Proceed with a saute.
If you plan to saute the eggplant as part of a stir fry, Thai and Chinese eggplant work best. They do not need to be salted before sauteing because they're usually smaller and less bitter than globe eggplants.
Place a skillet over high heat and cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil -- olive or another vegetable oil are good choices.
When the oil begins to shimmer due to the heat, it's hot enough to add the eggplant. Place the eggplant in a single layer and don't let the cubes touch.
Cook the eggplant in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan and making the eggplant soggy.
If you're sauteing cubes, move them around often to prevent burning. If you're sauteing strips or rounds, turn every 30 seconds or so to ensure they don't burn. Reduce the heat slightly if the eggplant is getting too dark. The eggplant should turn a deep brown color after 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the eggplant from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels. The paper towels will absorb excess oil.
Sauteed eggplant may be served as is, topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and minced parsley. Use it as a base for breadcrumb-free eggplant Parmesan by layering sauteed rounds with ricotta and mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Season the eggplant as it sautes with dried thyme and a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Add it to stir-fried chicken or beef and vegetables with soy sauce, brown sugar and vinegar and serve over rice.