Eggplant is really a fruit from the berry family, but in many Italian households it is a wonderful side dish which can accompany a plate of macaroni and, when prepared parmigiana style, can be a main course and centerpiece for many a sunday dinner. The eggplant tastes best when fried but grilling it, sans the oil, is a healthier alternative.
After skinning the eggplant slice it into 1/2" pieces, either across or lengthwise. Salt each slice and place into a collander. Then place the collander in a bowl. Weigh down the eggplant by covering with a piece of wax paper and a heavy can or two, or else use a pan. Let it sit for 30 minutes or up to two hours. This process will remove the juices from the eggplant making the frying process better.
The key to great eggplant is to fry it in vegetable oil at a high temperature. 350 degrees is optimum and at that temperature it will be ready in just a minutes or two per side. Vegetable oil is used rather than olive oil because of it's higher smoking point (in other words the oil will get hotter without burning). Half inch slices may seem a lttle thick but will result in less oil absorption. Before frying the eggplant each slice can be dusted with flour. After frying place the slices onto paper towels or place them into a bowl of just boiled water to wash away the excess oils. Once drained and completely dried, it can be simmered in sauce, which it will readily absorb, yielding eggplant full of flavor and texture, and not of oil.
Eggplant 101 will take you to 102 and more as the imagination will take flight in your own recipes. The basics are always the same so fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride.