The Simplest Way to Turn an Eggplant into Dinner

August 22, 2016

I struggle with eggplant.

They're smooth and svelte, green-hatted, some tiny and some massive, occasionally zebra-striped, occasionally twisted up like boa constrictors or question marks. And I always think they require so much of me and my time. If I have to salt something before cooking it, or painstakingly bread and fry a million slices, I begin to lose interest. And besides, what if, after all that, it turns out slimy? Or bitter? Or becomes into an oil sponge?

I know I'm not alone—Sarah Jampel wrote of the salting question (When a recipe calls for salting, "you groan! You drag out the colander! You sometimes don't oblige at all."); Alexandra Stafford praised a recipe—Ruth Reichl's Balsamic-Roasted Eggplant and Arugula Sandwiches that made her believe eggplant could be an unfussy vegetable after all.

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Our community member Molly Bernstein did the same for me: She makes cooking eggplant for dinner sound as simple as slicing a tomato onto mayo-slicked toast. All she did, as chronicled on our (Not)Recipes app? Roast an eggplant (about 450° F would do the trick) until creamy-soft inside (no salting required!), halve it, and pile on what she had on hand: sautéed ground lamb, tahini, a flurry of parsley. It looks Ottolenghi-worthy, without the Ottolenghi-level commitment to a cooking project.

Molly Bernstein
Molly Bernstein
Roast a whole eggplant till soft inside, throw some sautéed ground lamb, tahini, fresh parsley, and rock salt on top. Next time I want to add pomegranate seeds and pine nuts

It makes me want to go out and buy an eggplant myself! I'll either leave it whole, as she does, or spoon out the flesh and use it as a base for about a thousand toppings. It almost could serve the same purpose as a soft, warm swirl of polenta—not filling the same buttery, corny void, of course, but a creamy blank canvas all the same.

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Top Comment:
“You can use the eggplant mash the next night, or the next, or the next, in any of the ways suggested. Better yet, if you have a wood fire going--allow a few eggplants to roast in the embers.”
— Jennifer

Here are a few more ways to top it:

  • Toasty roasted chickpeas, chorizo, goat cheese, and pickled onions
  • Tahini, yogurt, fresh chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, sauerkraut
  • Soy-saucy tofu, pan-fried or raw, with sliced green onions and lots of sesame seeds
  • Cauliflower roasted with paprika, capers, salsa verde
  • Roasted corn and tomatoes, ricotta salata, parsley, red pepper flakes

Share what you'd serve on top—or any tips you have for conquering eggplant-cooking trepidation—in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kate Runyon
    Kate Runyon
  • Alexandra K
    Alexandra K
  • Cathy
  • boymeetsgirlmeetsfood
  • Jennifer
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Kate R. September 1, 2017
I love sweet toasted tomatoe slices on top followed by a scattering of basil and finishing with torn burrata. A drizzle of evoo along with some healthy grinds of pepper and sea salt and Tah Dah! My favorite meal of all time! Want to really guild the lily? Toast a bit of Panko with olive oil and garlic and shower it right over...mmmm.
Alexandra K. August 23, 2016
I've noticed that the type of eggplant featured on here is almost always a variety I cannot find in the stores. I plan on growing some next summer; does anyone have any feedback on the tastiest variety? Any answers much appreciated! :)
Alix August 28, 2016
The skinnier ones featured in the photo are Japanese eggplant. They have them at all the Greenmarkets this time of year.
Cathy August 23, 2016
Sliced and brushed with egg white then fried in soy sauce, onion, chilli oil and garlic
boymeetsgirlmeetsfood August 22, 2016
This is one of our favourite ways to prepare eggplant!

Also love a good Baingan Bhartha- it's very forgiving for eggplant beginners.
Jennifer August 22, 2016
Got the grill going? Make tomorrow's dinner tonight--throw an eggplant or two (or three) on the grill, not forgetting to stab them a few times with a fork. You can use the eggplant mash the next night, or the next, or the next, in any of the ways suggested. Better yet, if you have a wood fire going--allow a few eggplants to roast in the embers.
Leora August 22, 2016
If you are roasting your eggplant in the oven whole - be sure to prick the skin a few times with a fork so steam can escape or your eggplant will explode in the oven.
Greenstuff August 22, 2016
We are definitely on the same wavelength! My eggplant dInner last week was almost the same as yours--ground lamb, garlic, onions, tomato paste, spices, parsley, slivered almonds. I had an excess of the lamb mix, so I froze it, and tonight's stuffed eggplant will include those leftovers, Piquillo peppers, and whatever else leaps out of my refrigerator and into my arms.
PHIL August 22, 2016
I have to give that a try
Elle August 22, 2016
I scoop out the roasted eggplant (microwaving it works, too) and mix it with minced garlic, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a handful of toasted (minced) walnuts. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon juice. Great, easy supper with crackers or French bread.