The eggplant I knew, growing up, was a bland, bitter Korean banchan called gaji bokkeum (“stir-fried eggplant”). Sesame oil, burnt garlic, salt, maybe soy sauce. This is not that. When you roast the eggplant, char it at the edges, you somehow make it earthy again, like ash, which is a welcome substratum for fresh mint, a pinch of sugar for balance, and a bright, yellow squeeze of lemon. The lemon juice is insurance against that styrofoam texture you can sometimes get with undercooked eggplant, as are the extra five minutes at the very end, when you leave your warm, fully dressed sheet-pan salad in the oven to finish alloying. —Eric Kim
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the eggplant cubes, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and salt directly on a quarter sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes, or until caramelized and tender. Turn off the oven.
Season the cooked eggplant with the lemon juice, sugar, black pepper, the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a pinch more salt if you feel it needs it, and toss together (I like to do this straight in the sheet pan). Place back in the turned-off oven for 5 more minutes.
Finish with the fresh mint and serve at room temperature.
Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he is currently working on his first cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at Saveur, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times and follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho. Born and raised in Georgia, Eric lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson.