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.
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.
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.
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.