As the summer nears its end, we are blessed with an abundance of beautiful produce. Supple summer squash, juicy tomatoes and deep purple eggplant — to name a few.
Learning how to properly prepare eggplant is a truly empowering experience. When done poorly, it can be a soggy, gloopy, watery and flavourless mess. I began reading more about different methods of preparing eggplant a few years ago when my partner and I became determined to enjoy it. Newly vegetarian, we knew that it would be a meaty fruit staple (yep, it’s a fruit!) in our kitchen.
Here are my top three preparations for eggplant. I’ve taken my favourite aspects of each dish to create a delicious recipe for eggplant that I believe embodies all three.
Classic Eggplant Parmesan:
Layers of salty, crunchy eggplant, sweet marinara, fragrant basil and buffalo mozzarella. Important takeaways I’ve learned include: drying the eggplant overnight, reducing your tomato sauce to remove excess water content which also caramelizes the natural tomato sugars and going easy on the cheese to let the other flavours shine. Marcella Hazan has a superb recipe in her book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
The eggplant is sliced lengthwise in half, salted and dried in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Brush with a thick layer of tahini honey, and bake in a hot oven until caramelized and tender. Serve with a big scoop of strained yogurt, a generous handful of chopped parsley and wedge of lemon. Authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomanov offer bright recipes utilizing eggplant and other middle eastern flavour palates in their writing.
This is a comforting Northern Indian dish we’ve enjoyed with warm roti that builds heat as it goes. My favourite recipe to follow when learning to achieve the proper flavour was Julie Sahni’s, available on NYT food and in her book Classic Indian Cooking. Locally, DTK restaurant Sahar’s Kitchen makes a deeply flavourful and spicy Bharta that you must experience.
Eggplant with Burrata Cheese Recipe (or whatever you can get your hands on)
I don’t usually enjoy leftovers, especially leftover eggplant in most forms. The flavour and excitement it has on the first day fade in the fridge. This recipe, however, I think gets even better after sitting for one, even two days. While I think letting the flavours marinate together overnight is beneficial, even just pre-roasting and peeling your eggplant the night before helps make this a really simple summer dinner for two — or an impressive appetizer for a backyard gathering.
1 medium eggplant (Italian)
3 tbsp tomato puree – I used a leftover spaghetti sauce, but anything like this will work
2 tbsp parsley, chopped (this is a great place to use your parsley stems!)
½ tbsp honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
½ tsp coarse dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp cumin seed, cracked
1 tbsp coriander seed, cracked
1 ball of burrata cheese (substitutions: vegan — scoop of seasoned tahini, lactose-free — three jammy boiled eggs. If burrata is not accessible, sheep’s feta would be delicious!)
Grilled bread, crackers, or a crunchy vessel to scoop onto
Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lemon, for zesting
On a preheated BBQ, char eggplant until it begins to blacken and shrink, and the skin wrinkles. Meanwhile, lightly grill the cherry tomatoes and set them aside. Place eggplant in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, reserving the mashed flesh and juice. This step can be done the night before.
To make the spicy oil, heat three tbsp of oil in a pan over medium heat, add the sliced garlic and almonds, tossing them in the pan until they begin to lightly brown. Remove pan from heat and add chilli, cumin and coriander. Set aside.
In a saute pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil. Once oil is hot, add tomato puree and chopped parsley, sautee for 30 seconds, then add mashed eggplant. Heat through. Season with honey, salt and pepper.
To serve, place a layer of eggplant mix on a plate and top with burrata (feta, tahini or eggs). Spoon the cooled spicy oil overtop of the burrata and eggplant. Top with a generous sprinkle of parsley, mint and lemon zest. Serve schmeared over grilled sourdough and crackers.
Taylor Devalk is a trained chef and baker. Check out her food blogging for more tips and recipes on Instagram @taydevalk