When done right, eggplant is simply delicious. This fruit—like tomato, it’s considered a fruit—is plenty more than just an aubergine orb destined for the grill.
According to one USDA handbook, it may be “oval, round, long, or pear-shaped; the skin is smooth and shiny. The color may be black and purple, yellow, white, or striped. The main types include Standard (American), Japanese, Italian, Philippine, Thai, and Chinese.” Here in the U.S., we’re simply most accustomed to the long, purple varietal.
Well-prepared eggplant can reach epic taste heights—though it could take what some would consider forever in kitchen time. Here’s what I mean: You slice it up, salt it, let it sit for hours (at least three is ideal) in a colander over a bowl, rinse and dry each piece, bread or flour it, cook it, then eat it. Common eggplant dishes like eggplant parm work best in my opinion when you prep the main ingredient using this process, too.
Because I can’t make that time commitment on most weeknights—and most weekends for that matter—my eggplant quest this CSA season has been to find preparations that don’t require such a time-suck and that also don’t leave the fruit so soft. One great recipe we’ve made a couple times is this caponata from The New York Times, what writer Martha Rose Shulman describes as “a sweet-and-sour Sicilian version of ratatouille.” The eggplant gets roasted, chopped up, and mixed with olives, capers, tomato, celery, onion, and garlic. It’s great on top of a crusty, thinly cut baguette.
Also, here are two eggplant parm recipes that should take less time than the original. “Eggplant Parmesan is a lot of work,” writes Mark Bittman in his book Food Matters. “Here’s a more straightforward version, with the vegetables and meat grilled or broiled instead of breaded and fried.” It also happens to include chicken, but Bittman suggests swapping in zucchini or Portobello mushrooms if your aim is to keep the dish vegetarian. This Mario Batali recipe also doesn’t require salting and breading the eggplant.
Eggplant peaks in the summer, and though we’re nearing the end of that season, there’s still plenty of time to ramp up your recipe repertoire. Here are four additional recipes to try, the first of which came strongly recommended from Audubon senior editor Susan Cosier:
Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella Salad, Martha Stewart
Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint, Smitten Kitchen
Ginger-Miso Glazed Eggplant, Bon Appétit
Eggplant Rolls with Ricotta, Walnuts, and Mint, Aarti Sequeira/Food Network