Big Little Recipes

The Sexiest Eggplant Recipe for Summer

July  6, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, guest columnist, food stylist, and James Beard Award–nominated author Rebekah Peppler is sharing your new favorite way to cook eggplant, fresh from À Table, her just-released cookbook.


Vacation cooking hits different. It prioritizes pleasure. It is imaginative, free to change at a moment’s notice, often bursting with produce and ingredients that might not make it onto your everyday cutting board.

Despite the fact that I cook and eat for a living, I happily spend an ample share of my holidays seeking out local markets and farm stands, navigating the inevitable quirks of a rental kitchen, and, most importantly, gathering people I love around a table that we get to call our own for a short while.

This recipe for eggplant confit is a product of one such food-forward holiday—and it was so well received, I immediately made room for it in my new cookbook, À Table.

Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Andrea Foti. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

Two years ago, I was in full development and testing mode for À Table, and had planned a summer trip from Paris to the south of France with friends. While the pretext was to celebrate a birthday, I knew I would be the friend setting food on the table and only half-jokingly asking for detailed feedback.

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Top Comment:
“Perhaps coat the bottom of the pan with oil but let the eggplant above get browned in the oven? I know this would be a different recipe but I wonder how it would work? ”
— David H.
Comment

To prepare for the trip, I packed my market bag and mapped out the best marchés in the region. I made a vague wish list of in-season ingredients. I added my scale, measuring spoons, wine key, and a sharp knife to my suitcase. (Always bring your own knife; one slip of a dull blade can quickly ruin an otherwise fun weekend away.)

When we got to Provence I allowed my vacation brain to lead and, at one of those aforementioned marchés, it led me directly to the overflowing box of glossy-skinned, heavy-in-hand, far-sexier-than-the-eggplant-emoji aubergines. Suffice it to say, I grabbed as many as I could fit in my straw tote and ended up with extra.

Eggplant confit employs a traditional French cooking and preservation method. Confit, or slowly cooking something at a low temperature in fat (or a concentrated sugar syrup), comes from the French verb confire, meaning “to preserve.” While duck confit may immediately come to mind, confit refers to many a preserved food—meat or vegetable (both cooked in fat), or fruit (cooked in sugar).

Applying this straightforward technique to eggplant transforms it into tender, creamy, addictive slices—and garners a windfall of hyper-flavorful olive oil in the process. And for all this luxury, you need very few ingredients: eggplant, a few garlic cloves, anchovies, thyme, plenty of olive oil, pepper, and salt.

The eggplant confit slices are ideal served as a side, spread on crusty bread, or chopped up and strewn over hummus or labneh as a simple snack. But the recipe’s rich, savory, garlic-thyme-umami-laced by-product might just be my favorite part—sometimes I make this dish just to get the oil. Whisk it into vinaigrettes, use it to fry glorious eggs, dip bread in it, drizzle it with a heavy hand over pasta or sliced tomatoes or roasted vegetables; the list goes on.

But my favorite way to use the infused confit oil—and what I did on that particular trip—is to put it toward another eggplant and a few additional assorted nightshades to make ratatouille. The resulting dish is deeply flavored and, I’m not going to lie, the moment I tasted it, I wished I had accidentally bought even more of those sexy Provençal eggplants.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Which summer vegetables are you looking forward to preserving? Let us know in the comments!
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Rebekah Peppler is an American writer and food stylist living in Paris. Her clients include the New York Times, Real Simple, Food Network, and multiple cookbooks. Her next book, Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way (Clarkson Potter) will be released in October 2018. She is also the author of Honey, a Short Stack Edition. You can find more on rebekahpeppler.com and instagram.com/rebekahpeppler.

6 Comments

David H. July 8, 2021
As another person wrote, eggplant is like a sponge and absorbs a lot of oil. How would this recipe work with less oil? Perhaps coat the bottom of the pan with oil but let the eggplant above get browned in the oven? I know this would be a different recipe but I wonder how it would work?
 
David H. July 8, 2021
As another person has said, eggplant is like a sponge and absorbs a lot of oil
 
Shake$44 July 7, 2021
Could I try this with zucchini instead of eggplant?
 
Dahn C. July 6, 2021
Great recipe! Just bought your new book. I’d like to see more recipe videos.

Thanks, dahn
 
Dayan A. July 6, 2021
How do you store the leftover oil? in fridge? and how long does it keep?
thanks
 
Dahn C. July 6, 2021
Does not have to be fridged. Will last months.