Ways to eat more eggplant

Photographer: Greg DuPree, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely, Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Eggplants are all lovely to look at, but cooking them is when you truly get to enjoy them. Here are five ways to savor a delicious bite of the fruit.

Salt it first:  Slice eggplant, remove the skin, and place it in a single layer on cooling racks set over a rimmed baking sheet and coat it with salt. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes until the liquid comes out, then wash them off and pat them dry very well with paper towels. The idea of salting is to draw out any bitterness.

Roast eggplant long and slow: Eggplants are often roasted whole or halved with delicious results. The delicate flesh, creamy and fine, can be scooped out and added to tahini for luscious baba ghanoush, stirred into other generously roasted vegetables, or bathed in sweet, salty miso. Try roasting a halved eggplant, drizzling with tahini and pomegranate molasses, and serving with yogurt and fresh herbs as a luxurious entrée. One kitchen tip: Make sure to poke the eggplant with a fork very well before you cook it.

Pair eggplant with tomatoes as often as you can: Tomatoes and eggplant are a classic combo — and for good reason. Tomatoes are tart, sweet, and juicy; eggplant cannot wait to soak it up, and together they offer countless opportunities to freestyle to create something new.

You do not even need a formal recipe to do it: Start the stew with classic aromatics: onions, celery, carrots. Add some sweet bell peppers, then add salt and pepper and maybe a dash of your favorite hot sauce and cook, stirring, over high heat. Add plenty of fresh grated tomatoes, cubed (pre-salted) eggplant, and lower the heat to low. Cover and let it cook down until everything is soft, about 10 minutes. From pole beans to fennel to okra, use up those veggies. Cook until the eggplant is completely soft and the other vegetables are tender-crisp. Add a handful of chopped basil and parsley, or try a little mint or tarragon. Stir, taste for salt and pepper, and away you go. Serve it with quinoa, couscous, steamed rice, or orzo alongside some extra herbs and hot sauces.

Serve it hot or cold:  Eggplant is super versatile. It is tolerant and gentle, so it can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. In hot soup, cooked eggplant adds thickness and texture. It is easy to add to almost any soup or stew since it plays well with the flavors from a summer minestrone to miso soup. You can even add it to clam chowders. To serve it cold, try it tossed in a peanut satay sauce over noodles. Caponata is a classic summer eggplant dish from Southern Italy.

Fry eggplant: Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. How about adding chickpea flour to the regular wheat flour? Or some spelt or rye flour? Eggplants can stand up to it, and it will feel new again.