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.
Braised Eggplant and Tomatoes serves 3 to 4
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 1 small onion, sliced 1/4 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. Place eggplant halves in a 9x9 pan, 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, saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about five minutes. Transfer onions into a small bowl and stir in the tomato, basil, parsley, and remaining salt. Scoop the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant. Pour remaining olive oil into the bottom of the pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Baste 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.
Megan is a freelance writer and recipe developer. Her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings, will be available in bookstores nationwide Dec/2013. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.
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