Eggplant never seems like it should be good for you. It cooks up so rich, creamy, and smoky that it always seems like I should be feeling guilty about it, but it's actually quite low in calories and that purple skin is full of antioxidants. It's also easy to cook and works in a million different ways: on the grill in the summer, in heavy braises in the winter, in dips for parties, and in stir-fries all year long.
But whenever fall rolls around I find myself consumed by an abiding drive to roast things, and that's one of the best and easiest things to do with an eggplant.
How to Cook Eggplant in the Oven
What You Need
medium eggplants or one globe eggplant
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the Oven: Preheat oven to 400°F.
Prepare the Eggplant: Cut the stem end and bottom off the eggplant, then cut it in half lengthwise. Score the flesh with a knife, cutting deep into the flesh but not through the skin. Cut diagonal lines going about an inch apart, then turn the eggplant around and cut again so you have a diamond pattern.
Brush with Olive Oil: Brush the eggplant flesh with a bit of olive oil and put it face-down on a baking sheet.
Roast the Eggplant: Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the back of the eggplant looks collapsed and puckered.
Let the Eggplant Cool: Let the eggplant cool for 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. It can be scooped out of the peel for use in dips, or eaten plain with its antioxidant-rich peel and a sprinkle of lemon juice.
If you're using a globe eggplant, it may be necessary to salt it before roasting. After scoring the eggplant, simply sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt and let stand for 30-60 minutes. Then rinse off the salt, give it a firm squeeze to get rid of any excess juices, and pat dry with a paper towel.
If you're using a long, skinny, Japanese eggplant, it is not necessary to score or salt it. Just cut it in half and pop it in the oven.
Cutting the eggplant into 1-inch pieces before roasting makes an excellent addition to sauces and stir-fries.
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(Images: Elizabeth Licata)