It's that time of year: They're everywhere. Eggplants.
If there's one vegetable I always have lying around, it's the moonless, Stygian nightshade vegetable. I'm even holding it in my official Food52 team photo. See?
Beyond seeing them everywhere, I'm a huge fan of cooking them and eating them, as well. Though, I'll admit, I didn't always love them.
But once I learned that you could roast them in the oven and stew them with tomatoes until meltingly tender—once I realized they don't have to be oil-logged or spongily undercooked—I've been making excuses to cook them over and over, every which way. Such versatility! I can't get enough of their smoky-sweet flesh, the way they add a duvet of savory comfort to anything they're in. I eat them by the armful. (Er...crateful? Bushelful? Whatever eggplants get shipped in.) I love them so much now that I strongly believe one could live off of the stuff for an entire week straight. In fact, I probably go through at least seven eggplants a week.
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It may sound like too much eggplant, but because the vegetable is such a blank canvas for all kinds of flavors, it's sort of a Transformer of the nightshade world, its potential bedazzled with myriad forms and functions, all of which are way more than meets the eye. Anyway, I'm here to teach you how to stop seeing all those eggplants at the market and how to start seeing dinner.
A quick note on varieties: The skinny Japanese ones like those pictured above are lovely, but I tend to go for the large FAT ones (if you're like me: always looking for more bang for your buck). At the end of the day what matters here is the weight of your eggplant haul.
So Here's the Plan
Buy seven medium-sized eggplants at the store. For those who suck at math like me, that's usually about a pound per regular ol' Italian eggplant, i.e. 7 pounds total. If you're buying the skinnier Japanese variety or even the adorable pixie ones of farmers market fame as of late, then you'll need a few more to get to 7 pounds.
Make these recipes, eat like royalty. You'll have an extravagant (and varied!) eggplant feast all week long.
Roast your first eggplant for this simple, straightforward sheet pan salad, the perfect side dish to round out any main course. Lately, I've been adding a pinch of cumin before roasting—makes it taste even smokier and more baba ghanoush–like. Speaking of baba ghanoush: Sometimes when I don't feel like chewing (it happens), I'll blitz this up with Greek yogurt and eat the dip with a spoon. Divine.
Remember that salad? If you haven't turned it into a dip yet (even if you have!), the main course to go with could be this cheesy shortcut eggplant Parmesan by our recipe developer and BLR columnist Emma Laperruque. It's the kind of dinner you can really make yourself at the end of a long workday. For this you'll only need five ingredients (including the one eggplant).
Have one in a sandwich for lunch this week, slathered with yogurt and filled to the brim with a Middle Eastern medley of vegetables. The pita bread and hard-boiled eggs help take that single eggplant so much further, making it so that you could have one of these for breakfast, too, if you wanted. You'll get four individual meals out of this recipe.
I don't think I could survive without pasta in my pantry. It's cheap! It's fast! It's yummy! The spicy eggplant sauce in Gena Hamshaw's recipe (which only calls for two eggplants) is enough to coat a whole pound of linguine—that's a lot of pasta. Feed an army, eat for days, and pack it for lunch; it reheats well.
Chop up a couple pounds of eggplants for this rich, comforting fall stew. "Make bademjan, as this stew is called in Farsi, on a lazy day," Louisa Shafia writes, "when you have time to caramelize the onions until they’re dark and sweet, then cook the stew and let it rest for a while on the stove before eating to let the flavors develop." Though eggplant carries this dish, the true star is the pomegranate molasses, which adds a sweet-tart depth.
Are you crazy about eggplant, too? Tell us your favorite way to prepare it in the comments below.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his weekly solo dining column, Table for One, runs every Friday morning. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.