Well, perhaps that’s an overstatement: I was pleased with the texture of the eggplant, with its supple skin and creamy flesh, but whenever I stirred, the delicate pieces tended to break apart. So instead of using a spoon, I simply swirled the skillet.
That helped, but the size and shape of the pieces, as well as the eggplant variety, also had an impact on whether or not the chunks stayed intact. I knew that each piece needed to have some skin attached, since skinless flesh fell apart and muddied the sauce. Also, I wanted the recipe to work with the most commonly available types of eggplant, each with a different size and shape: long, slender Chinese or Japanese eggplant; larger, bulbous globe eggplant; and smaller Italian eggplant. Coin‑shaped slices worked well for the Asian varieties but were too large for the others. Conversely, slicing into rounds and then into pie-shaped wedges was well suited to larger eggplant but not the smaller ones. The only method that worked across the board was cutting the eggplant in half crosswise and then lengthwise into slim, even wedges. This way, each piece was guaranteed to have a uniform ratio of skin to flesh no matter the dimensions of the eggplant. (It was also important to choose moderately sized Italian or globe eggplants: Cut into wedges, the big swaths of flesh that were created with large eggplants were more liable to break away from the skin.)