Eggplant gets a bit of a bad rep: Often turning out soggy, bitter, or underdone, it's easy to get wrong. But with a few tips, it's also super easy to get right – and what's more, a bit of technique results in a flavorful, fork-tender bite every time.
Glossy, jewel-toned eggplants make an excellent addition to any savory dish, emerging either creamy and rich or toothsome, making them the ideal substitute for meat or dairy in any plant-based recipe.
How To Select and Store Eggplants
Eggplant’s peak season ranges from August through October; that said, it can be found year round. In late summer, you should be able to find fresh eggplant at your local farmers market.
When selecting eggplant, look for a firm, glossy skin with no wrinkling. Lightly press on it with your thumb to ensure it hasn’t gone soft. Eggplants perish quickly, so plan to buy it only a couple of days in advance of cooking it. You can store unwashed and uncut eggplant in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
Eggplant is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients which help to keep the brain healthy. One cup of cooked eggplant contains 2 grams of fiber, 7 percent DV copper, and 6 percent DV manganese.
Eggplant’s phytonutrients include nasunin, which is an antioxidant that may help to protect cells from free radical damage. Nausunin is found in the skin of eggplant – all the more reason not to peel this deep purple layer!.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking Eggplant Perfectly
Eggplant can be a bit finicky, but with these tips, you'll be just fine!
First on the docket: the veggie's pesky tendency to oxidize and turn brown. Luckily, you can prevent this by opting for a stainless steel knife instead of carbon steel, which reacts with the phytonutrients in eggplant. Once cut, brush the eggplant with fresh lemon juice, which will minimize browning.
For the creamiest texture, salt your eggplant before cooking it. To do so, place the cut eggplant into a colander, and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt. Let it sit for 60 to 90 minutes, then rinse with cold water and gently pat dry between two tea towels or paper towels.
This step will draw out excess moisture and also help to reduce any lingering bitterness – something certain varieties of eggplant, like Southeast Asian ones, are more prone to. Larger and overripe eggplants tend to be more bitter as well!
How to Cook Eggplant 4 Ways
There are many ways to go about cooking eggplant, ranging from baking to grilling. Each method provides a tasty result!
How To Bake Eggplant
For baked eggplant that’s creamy in texture and lightly browned, begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat, then cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Brush the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. The eggplant should be lightly browned and fork tender.
From the Organic Authority Files
How To Roast Eggplant
For roasted eggplant with a caramelized flavor, you'll want a slightly higher heat! Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Slice the eggplant vertically in half, then cut off the stem. Score the eggplant, then brush each half lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, and roast for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant. When the roasted eggplant is done, it should be wilting around the edges and have a browned interior. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
How To Sauté Eggplant
Sautéing eggplant is a quick and easy way to enjoy the vegetable. Cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces, then heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and any desired seasonings or spices, and sauté for 10 minutes, or until fork tender, stirring continuously.
How To Grill Eggplant
Grilled eggplant makes a delicious addition to any summertime barbecue. Simply heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Slice the eggplant into rounds, and lightly brush with olive oil. Grill covered if using gas, uncovered if using charcoal, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Season as desired.
5 Delicious Eggplant Recipes
1. Vegan Eggplant Gyros
These light and healthy Vegan Eggplant Gyros make the perfect summer sandwich. Eggplant's chewy texture perfectly replaces the meat that is usually in gyros, and its flavor pairs perfectly with the creamy hummus.
2. Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Subs
Breaded eggplant topped with marinara and cashew cheese makes the perfect filling for these Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Subs. This is an ideal dish for anyone who is hesitant about eating eggplant, as the flavorful fillings tend to mask its flavor somewhat.
3. Vegan Ratatouille
This picnic-friendly Vegan Ratatouille is the perfect dish to liven up your summer with loads of seasonal veggies. Tarragon adds an herbaceous flavor that pairs perfectly with the eggplant, zucchini, and squash.
4. Vegan Nut-Free Queso
Most vegan cheese recipes call for cashews much to the dismay of those with nut allergies. But once blended, eggplant makes the perfect creamy substitute in this Vegan Cashew-less Queso.
5. Eggplant Cannelloni
Rolled up grilled eggplant bakes the perfect outer shell for pesto and marinara in this Eggplant Cannelloni. This grain-free dish is delicious, comforting, and naturally gluten-free!
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