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I am making a dish that involves roasted vegetables and couscous. I have often found, though, that the zucchini and eggplant are unpalatably watery after roasting them. I have read that if you salt and/or press zucchini and eggplant, you can reduce the amount of water left in them and give them a better texture when cooked. What is the best procedure to rid the zucchini and eggplant of their water before roasting them?

Update:

I sliced the zucchini and eggplant and placed them on a baking sheet, filling one layer of a large sheet. I salted them with about 1/4 cup kosher salt. Then I placed a cutting board that just fit inside the edges over the sheet and put my stand mixer on top. I let it sit for 20 minutes, then wiped off all the salt and water that had drained out. This resulted in a much better product.

However, I don't really know if I used a good amount of salt (too much? too little?) and if I left them to drain for a good length of time (too long? too short?) to get the best results. It worked pretty well—not too salty, veggie texture nice and chewy—but could I get even better results by using a more precise procedure?

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Yeah they just kind of fall apart into undifferentiated mush compared to the onions and bell peppers I roast with them. –  nohat Aug 3 '10 at 5:32

5 Answers 5

I think your problem will disappear with proper technique. Zucchini and eggplant are indeed full of water. You have to both salt them well, to draw out the water, and cook them long enough for the liquid to evaporate.

It sounds like you are both under-salting and under-cooking. Try roasting for longer and/or at a higher temperature. My personal favorite way to do them is on the grill, where the direct heat and lack of a 'pan' allows lots of evaporation and also delicious browning.

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+1 for delicious browning :) –  systempuntoout Aug 3 '10 at 13:17
    
Can't do without it. –  Ocaasi Aug 3 '10 at 19:40

The way I've seen it at a show on TV:

  1. Put zucchini/eggplant slices on a cooling rack
  2. Salt one side, wait a while for the moisture to come out, then turn and salt the other side
  3. Squeeze carefully and wash off excess salt

This way you should get much better results after roasting/frying.

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Shouldn't really need to squeeze them if you've let them sit salted long enough - the excess moisture should be visible on the surface, just rinse and pat dry. Also, use kosher salt - this is pretty much what it's made for. –  Shog9 Aug 3 '10 at 3:07

Don't have an answer for zucchini. Do for eggplant:

Skin and slice the eggplant to the thickness you will be using, salt both sides of the slices and restack them (I make two stacks for each eggplant, effectively having 2 halves of each eggplant stacked, with the largest diameter down and the smallest on the top).

When you have a stable stack, put some weight at the top of each stack, I typically use weight of at least two pounds or 1 Kg on each top of each stack of eggplant (large can of tomatoes). Balancing the weight can be taken care of by putting the stacks of eggplant next to each other and stacking up other stuff around it the keep the weights in place (don't use a glass weight, despite my best efforts the weights sometimes fall as the eggplant shrinks).

I like to keep the weights on the eggplant until the height of each stack of eggplant slices has shrunk at least one third.

After the eggplant has shrunk to the desired volume, rinse each slice well and dry, then finish dicing, cubing, slicing or what ever the final form of the eggplant needs to be and use it as you will.

Do not use "a lot of salt" rather, use only what you need, if you go overboard it will permeate the eggplant and your dish will come out too salty. The experience gained in two tries should teach the correct amount of salt, lighter application is better than heavier.

Pre-treating eggplant this way gives it the texture of a very tender cut of thin meat, pleasing to the tongue and not at all mushy.

Enjoy

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I have never had this problem and I never salt either. This might also relate to the water quantity in the vegetable. Plants from some places oten have a much high water content than others. It might be worth trying out vegetables from different sources to see if you get any improvements. In my experience one of the benefits of organic vegetables is that they do have a signficantly higher dry matter content than most other vegetables so if you can source them and afford them you could try organic.

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BBQ on high heat with no lubrication

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