Think eggplant has to be stringy, bitter, greasy, or bland? Chances are you've just never had it cooked right. The pale meat of this botanical-fruit-turned-culinary-vegetable is certainly mild in flavor, and its spongy texture means it's prone to soaking up an excess of oil. But all it takes to make eggplant appealing is a little know-how, whether you're grilling it, roasting it sautéing it, or blending it into a smooth dip. We especially like it when it's smoky and charred from intense direct heat. If you still need a little convincing of its worth, if you're already an eggplant lover and your garden is turning out an uncontrollable glut this summer, or if your overwhelmed neighbors are constantly throwing their eggplant bounty your way, these 21 recipes will rescue you. We've got miso-glazed eggplant slices topping a burger, crisp-edged fried eggplant smothered with tahini and packed into Israeli sabich sandwiches, and the creamiest, richest baba ganoush. Read on for more ways to enjoy the versatile nightshade.
Eggplant as a Main Dish
Move over, falafel, there's a new Israeli sandwich in town! The sabich is a popular Tel Aviv street snack that eats like a meal—a warm, thick pita, split and stuffed with fried eggplant slices, hard-boiled egg, hummus, tahini sauce, Israeli cucumber and tomato salad, and Mediterranean-style pickles, all of which adds up to fantastic diversity in texture and flavor (and a gloriously oozy, drippy mess). The secret ingredient in a sabich is tart amba, a sauce made of pickled mango and flavored with fenugreek.
This vegetarian shooter's-style sandwich gets a meaty texture from roasted eggplant, portobello mushrooms, and zucchini. Here, we take extra care to eliminate as much moisture as we can from the vegetables, which concentrates their flavor and prevents sogginess. After cooking, they're layered with sweet caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese. The portability of a shooter's-style sandwich makes it great for picnics, but if you're eating it at home, you can warm it up in the oven before serving.
Slices of globe eggplant are exactly the right size for topping a burger patty, so this recipe was just meant to be. The tender roasted eggplant slices are brushed with a sweet-savory miso glaze, then piled on top of juicy burgers, along with creamy Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and quick-pickled cucumbers for a nice bright crunch. Because the glaze is already rather sweet, we recommend using less sugar for the pickles than you normally would be inclined to.
Lasagna isn't the kind of airy, light dish we tend to associate with hot summer days, but sometimes you just want a big slab of lasagna regardless of the season, you know? To make a tasty lasagna using summer vegetables, we sauté them to drive out excess water (zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash are all full of it) and use a sparing hand with the cheese—too much dairy will overpower the veggies' delicate flavor. The result is a casserole that'll satisfy your lasagna cravings while still tasting fresh.
Compared to its bread-crumb-laden Italian-American cousin, Italian-style eggplant parm is lighter and smoother. We start by frying eggplant slices, uncoated, then layer them with a simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh oregano leaves. Noticeably absent from the recipe is Parmesan cheese—we think the salty aged cheese is a poor companion for the cleaner flavors of the other ingredients.
Reminiscent of a deconstructed baba ganoush, this homey, soul-satisfying dish consists of caramelized roasted eggplant served over stewed lentils with crunchy roasted pine nuts. The star is an incredibly light, creamy tahini sauce—which we'd love to take credit for, but in fact, the technique comes from Michael Solomonov's fantastic Israeli cookbook, Zahav.
Most eggplant recipes direct you to either cut the eggplant before cooking or roast it whole. In this one, we peel the eggplant and then pan-fry it whole, so that the exterior browns while the inside steams. It's served swimming in an easy yogurt-based sauce, spiked with harissa and cumin and bulked up with tomatoes and chickpeas. Feel free to use a heavier hand with the harissa if you want the dish extra spicy.
Eggplant is at its most delicious when it's charred, and the best way to get a good char is to brine it first. Here, we soak the eggplant in a salt solution and stir-fry it until it's thoroughly browned. The eggplant then cooks through in a thick, glossy sauce flavored with Sichuan broad bean paste, black vinegar, Shaoxing wine, hot chilies, ginger, and garlic—we add just a little cornstarch to help thicken it, but not so much that it'll turn gloppy.
Back when I started working at the Serious Eats office in New York, this fragrant eggplant, kabocha squash, and chicken curry was one of the first dishes of Daniel's that I ever tried, and it's a winner. Using a pressure cooker makes short work of the chicken in this Thai-style stew, and leaves it extra tender besides. The intense aroma and flavor of the coconut milk–based sauce, featuring store-bought curry paste, ginger, garlic, and spices, belie how easy it is to make.
Sweet, subtly briny shrimp pair exceptionally well with the mild flavor of baby black eggplants. For this Indian take on a stir-fry, we cook the two quickly with tomato, onion, chilies, ginger-garlic paste, and plenty of cumin and turmeric, making the dish warm with spice but not over-seasoned. Try serving it with rice pilaf or—my favorite—freshly made roti.
This colorful, brunch-friendly dish of baked eggs perched in a nest of sautéed summer vegetables walks a fine line between hash and ratatouille. Par-cooking the eggplant in the microwave and squeezing out its water helps with browning, and keeps the eggplant from absorbing too much oil, while cooking the squash and zucchini separately helps preserve their delicate flavor and texture. This is one occasion in which you'll want to use high-quality olive oil—and don't skimp on it, either.
If you're on the hunt for a recipe that will turn ordinary, store-bought puff pastry into something exciting and special, look no further. This tart uses the puff pastry as a base, and loads it up with creamy goat cheese, Gouda, aromatic nigella seeds, eggplant, and a drizzle of honey.
Inspired by the flavors of Sicily, this pasta pairs swordfish, tomato, and eggplant with rigatoni. The dish is hearty and easy to make, but light enough to enjoy all summer.
Eggplant Appetizers and Sides
There's plenty of poorly made, mushy or bitter baba ganoush out there. But when baba ganoush is done well, it's bright, smoky, rich, and completely addictive. To make a great version at home, roast the eggplant until it's meltingly tender and drain it in a salad spinner to concentrate its flavor. Mix in garlic and lemon juice, then slowly drizzle in tahini and olive oil to form a creamy emulsion that's perfect for dipping pita chips or crudités.
Caponata is a sweet-sour Sicilian condiment that derives its intense flavor from a laundry list of ingredients, including eggplant, olive oil, raisins, pine nuts, bell pepper, red wine vinegar, and herbs. Its wallop of flavors can be something of an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, you'll never look back. Once cooked down into a sauce, it's ready to be tossed with pasta or (my preferred use) spread onto bruschetta.
The 2007 Pixar movie Ratatouille ends with the hero reimagining the rustic namesake dish as an elegantly layered masterpiece, thereby wowing a fastidious restaurant critic. But what Remy purportedly invents is actually a classic Provençal tian. We make our version with thin slices of zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant, bathed in a tomato sauce and laid out in pretty concentric circles. You can cut your vegetables into different shapes or use a different size or shape of baking vessel, but the most important step is the same as in our summer lasagna recipe: Sauté each batch of vegetables to eliminate moisture and help it brown.
This is the ideal recipe to try out on longtime eggplant skeptics: Smoky grilled eggplant slices are hard to resist even if you're not generally a fan, and rolling up other flavorful ingredients inside them makes them even more compelling. Here, we fill the slices with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, plus sharp provolone, fresh basil, and egg to serve as a binder. The rolls are then nestled into a grill tray of tomato-rich marinara and left to cook until the cheese melts into a bubbling, gooey mass.
These Mediterranean-inspired rolls fill slabs of grilled eggplant with tangy Greek yogurt and feta, tomato, cucumber, and handfuls of fresh oregano, mint, and dill. For these and the rollatini above, it's important to slice the eggplant to the right thickness, about a quarter of an inch—too thin and the pieces will disintegrate; too thick and they'll be difficult to roll.
Making homemade ramen is a rewarding but time-intensive pursuit, which is why ramen kits of the sort from Sun Noodle are such a lifesaver. The noodles and broth themselves are quite good, but they're much improved with the addition of your own homemade toppings—sliced scallions, soft-boiled eggs, or this deeply savory eggplant. We roast whole eggplants first, then scoop out the soft, smoky flesh and spin it in a salad spinner, as in our baba ganoush recipe. Then we simmer it with typical Japanese flavoring agents: kombu, bonito, soy sauce, and mirin.
This plate of tender little eggplants is inspired by the classic Bengali dish begun-er tok. Seasoned with a paste made up of tomato, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and Kashmiri red chili powder, they're baked until charred and blackened on the outside, with velvety and soft interiors.
This eggplant dish, sometimes on the menu at yakitori restaurants, is nearly as delicious when prepared under the broiler. The direct heat chars the skin and highlights the eggplant's natural smoky flavor, and cooks the inside to a rich, creamy consistency. We top the finished eggplant with flakes of cured, smoked, and dried bonito, sliced scallions, and spicy grated ginger.
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