This time of year, eggplant is practically taking over farmers markets. I'm happy to welcome it with open arms, although I know not everyone shares the sentiment. Eggplant is tricky; with its soft texture and sometimes slightly bitter taste, it can get a bad rap. But when prepared well, eggplant is something truly satisfying.
If eggplant isn't something in your normal meal rotation, it can seem a little daunting to prepare. But this jewel-toned vegetable is actually way more versatile than it gets credit for.
8 Ways to Cook with Eggplant
1. Bake it.
Cut the eggplant into strips and bake them; or slice into rounds, add a breaded or spiced coating, and bake for the beginning of eggplant Parmesan or a simple side dish.
2. Mashed it into a dip.
Once cooked, the eggplant flesh can be scooped out and easily mashed or pureed into a dip. It has a thick, creamy texture, with a smoky flavor that makes it totally delicious.
3. Roast it.
This is one of the simplest, and in my opinion, most delicious ways to cook eggplant. All you need is a hot oven, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to transform eggplant into a soft, rich, charred, and smoky treat. Cut it into pieces and eat as is, or mix it into a salad or pasta.
4. Toss it with pasta.
Give it a quick roast or sauté first, then toss cubed eggplant with penne or spaghetti, or even layer it in a lasagna. One thing is certain — eggplant definitely has a place in your pasta dinner.
5. Grill it.
Eggplant has dense, meaty flesh that makes it ideal for grilling. Cut it into thick rounds for burgers, cube it for kabobs, or slice it into strips for a simple grilled side dish.
6. Stir-fry it.
Add eggplant to the list of vegetables ideal for stir-frying. When cooked, it has a semi-soft texture that makes a nice complement to the firmer veggies in the mix.
7. Stuff it.
With its thick skin, eggplant is practically begging to be scooped out, then stuffed with a flavorful filling.
8. Braise it.
Braised eggplant is like the best of all cooking methods rolled into one. With this method, the eggplant slices or spears are cooked until very soft, while picking up flavors from the other ingredients in the pan.
This post has been updated - originally published August 2011.
(Image credits: Karen Biton-Cohen; Megan Gordon)