5 Delicious Ways to Use Eggplant Before Summer Is Over
This seasonal underdog deserves a spot on your dinner table.
August may feel a bit different this year, but at least one thing has remained the same — it’s still peak end-of-summer produce season! Heirloom tomatoes are at their juiciest, grilled corn tastes its sweetest and zucchini is overflowing in gardens and farmers’ market stalls. And don’t even get us started on watermelon, peaches and plums. Amidst all that bounty, there is one type of seasonal produce that tends to get lost in the mix but deserves just as much attention: eggplant.
This fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) can be grilled, sauteed, roasted, steamed or fried. If you haven’t cooked with eggplant yet or need a quick refresher, check out these classes in the Food Network Kitchen app and learn from the pros.
Charred Eggplant and Tomato Caprese (pictured above)
After Memorial Day, this combo of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil seems to pop up everywhere, in many different forms. In her Summer Produce Picks course, Lidey Heuck serves up a classic version of the salad but with one small twist. She introduces grilled eggplant to the equation. In this class, she shows us how to grill eggplant slices until tender and slightly charred, then demonstrates how to artfully arrange a caprese platter. Pro tip: Find tomatoes and eggplants that are roughly the same diameter so everything will be a similar size and easier to line up.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy eggplant is baba ganoush. To make this dip, chef May Yacoubi mashes eggplant with tahini, lemon juice, yogurt, salt and crushed garlic. First, though, she roasts the eggplant directly on the stovetop and peels off the skin. For effortless peeling, she suggests adding the eggplant to a baking dish, covering with plastic wrap and letting it sweat for 10 to 15 minutes. The skin will come right off! If you want to try another version of this dip, check out Megan Mitchell’s Roasted Eggplant Dip with Marinated Summer Vegetables.
Eggplant Ricotta Bites
For an update on bruschetta, FNK’s Vivian Chan starts with a base of pan-fried eggplant instead of the usual toasted bread. In this class, she shares her secret for making flavorful, crispy fried eggplant: Add salt to draw out excess moisture and any bitterness before breading and frying. Vivian cuts the eggplant, then places the slices on a cooling rack nestled into a baking sheet. Next, she adds a sprinkling of salt, waits a few minutes and quickly pats the eggplant dry with paper towels.
Baingan Kaa Bhartaa
A popular Northern Indian dish, this Smoked Spiced Eggplant is hearty enough to work as a vegetarian main. While baingan kaa bhartaa is traditionally made by charring a whole eggplant over an open fire, chef Suvir Saran adapts the technique for the home kitchen by roasting it directly over a gas burner or in the oven (don't forget to prick a few holes into the eggplant first!). Both methods work beautifully; just be sure not to skip this step, as it's essential to amping up the smoky flavor of the dish. The eggplant is then peeled, finely chopped and cooked with onion, tomatoes, chiles and plenty of aromatics and spices (think coriander, cumin and garam masala).
Eggplant is no stranger to Italian cuisine (looking at you, Eggplant Parm and Pasta alla Norma). As Jackie Rothong teaches us how to turn eggplant into a super-flavorful filling for pasta shells, she dishes on the most important things to look for when buying an eggplant. Choose eggplants that are firm and avoid any with soft spots. If there are soft spots, there’s a chance that when you cut into the eggplant, it will be slightly brown and on the verge of rotting. Jackie recommends hitting the farmers’ market for the freshest finds.