Eggplant can get a bad rap. Some people find it mushy while others may find it stringy or even tasteless. But if it's prepared well, eggplant can be an extremely satisfying meat substitute and, when joined with a few tomatoes and fresh herbs, the perfect summer meal.
I like this recipe a lot because it doesn't try and dress up the eggplant with too much oil or gobs of cheese. So often people will fry up their eggplant (which isn't half-bad, I'll be the first to admit) or douse it with loads of olive oil and cheese while baking in the oven. Especially in the hot summer months, it's nice to let eggplant stand on its own as it does here.
I keep this recipe close at hand because it's highly adaptable. If you have farmer's market tomatoes ripening on your windowsill, use those instead of canned tomatoes. Maybe you've got a few zucchinis or a jar of capers you've been wanting to use up? Throw those in, too. I make this recipe often, actually, and sometimes lay some spinach in the bottom of the pan and place the eggplant right on top—this way you've got wilted, flavorful spinach to go along with your simple braised eggplant.
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
14-oz can whole tomatoes (about 3-4 tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Film the bottom of a 9x9 pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then place eggplant halves inside, cut sides up. Sprinkle each half with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reserve the remaining salt for later use.
In a small skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, about five minutes. Stir in the tomato, basil, parsley, and remaining salt until combined, then scoop the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Baste the eggplant with the liquid in the pan, then re-cover and bake for 15 more minutes. Baste again and bake until eggplants are soft and tender, uncovered, about 20 additional minutes.