Baking eggplant slices gives you a healthy and flavorful option for a side dish or a rich base for more complicated offerings. Baked-eggplant slices can be tricky to prepare because raw eggplant sucks up oil like a sponge. Olive oil and salt are great complements to the flavor of baked-eggplant slices, but they offer more than that. Salting eggplant slices helps draw out the extra moisture, and olive oil encourages the silky texture so prized in eggplant recipes.
Wash the eggplant thoroughly, especially if you intend to leave the peel on the slices, which helps the rounds keep their shape. Eggplant contains a lot of air pockets, according to the Exploratorium’s Anne Gardiner, and this causes it to collapse as it cooks and absorbs oil.
Slice off the ends of the eggplant and discard them. Slice the rest of the eggplant crosswise in pieces that are at least as thick as your thumb. The thicker the slices, the better they will hold their shapes.
Salt the slices liberally on both sides and lay them in a colander in the sink. The salt draws the moisture out of the eggplant slices, and also wicks out the juices responsible for the bitterness that some people experience when eating eggplant. Leave the slices in the colander for at least an hour to make sure that they are completely drained.
Rinse the salted eggplant slices in softly running cool water. Gently squeeze out any excess water by pressing the eggplant slices between your flat palms, to make sure that they retain their shapes. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Brush the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and sprinkle it lightly with salt. Sea salt or kosher salt work best, but plain table salt is also good. Use salt and oil sparingly because eggplant absorbs oils and flavors much like tofu does.
Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer in the oiled and salted baking dish. Brush a thin layer of olive oil on top of each one and the sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over the oil.
Bake the eggplant slices for about an hour, until they are soft, buttery and slightly browned. They are done when the slices are completely limp and translucent, and you can smell them clearly.