How to Cook Eggplant
Despite some of the difficulties it causes in the kitchen, well-made eggplant is a true delight. In fact, even eggplant haters will make exceptions for certain recipes, such as the soy-and-garlic-marinated eggplant below. It is my mother's recipe, and to this day people tell me it is the only eggplant they will eat. In addition to converting people to eggplant eaters, this recipe has the virtue of being incredibly easy to make.
Marinated Eggplant (or Eggplant Even Eggplant Haters Love)
(serves 8 as an appetizer)
2 pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Blend oils, soy sauce and garlic. Halve and score eggplant and place upside down in marinade. Refrigerate overnight for up to two days. Remove from refrigerator and let sit until room temperature. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then turn and bake 25 more minutes or until eggplants are soft (easily pricked with a fork). Serve with French bread or pumpernickel at room temperature.
Pared-down Eggplant Parmigiana
(Serves 6 as a side dish)
3 Chinese or Japanese eggplant or 1 large American eggplant
1/2-2/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper to taste
salt to taste
1 medium tomato (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the Asian eggplant in half or the American eggplant in slices 1/2 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. (Because this dish has so few ingredients, it's crucial to the flavor that the cheese be freshly grated. You can find blocks of Parmesan in good supermarkets, specialty stores and most Italian butcher shops, and if you've never had it, you're in for a treat.) Place in oven and bake until cheese is bubbly and the eggplant is easily pricked through with a fork.
If you want to get a little bit fancier, make a simple tomato sauce to sprinkle on before the cheese. Place the tomato in boiling water for one minute or until the skin pops. Run it under cold water. Peel and quarter it and remove the seeds. Puree it in the blender with a little salt and pepper, and you have a fresh, simple sauce.
Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
(serves 6 as an appetizer)
2 medium American eggplant
3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
finely chopped parsley (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Score the eggplant deeply, all around, so it won't explode. Bake in a pan or on a cookie sheet until it is so soft it almost collapses. Let cool until it is comfortable to handle; discard any juices that have collected on the pan and scoop out the pulp, discarding the skin. Puree in blender or food processor with garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper, if desired. Before serving, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle on the parsley, if desired. Serve with crudites or slices of pita bread.