How to roast eggplant? Just dice it up, toss with a little olive oil, and pop it in the oven. This healthy way to cook eggplant is so simple, yet so flavorful.
When it comes to food I often tend to go overboard. I serve dinner salads that guests assume are meant to feed the entire table. I bake enormous cookies. I currently have 14 jars of organic peanut butter in my pantry.
More than once I've been declared the "highest grocery receipt of the month" at Trader Joe's, although in my defense the store is 200 miles away and I only get to shop there a couple of times a year. The checkers say things like, "Wow, you must really like cheese," and "Just how many cats do you have?" When they raise an eyebrow at the twelve pounds of organic carrots, I mention our seven donkeys.
So it wasn't surprising that when I moved from a tiny urban lot in Northern California to a sprawling Missouri farm back in 1994, my organic kitchen garden grew from around 60 square feet to about 10,000. I planted something like 174 different kinds of herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, almost all of them started from seed. The gardening magazine editor who asked me to send him a complete planting list called my efforts "ambitious."
I've scaled back since then.
I'd never grown—or even cooked—eggplant before moving to Missouri, but the 20 plants in my first year's garden (what was I thinking?) rewarded me with a bumper crop. I ended up turning the majority of my harvest into caponata during a several month long canning rampage, but when I called the 800 canning hotline number for processing directions, I was sternly informed that I couldn't put up jars of caponata.
"Oh, yes I can!" I said, hanging up and taking my chances. (I lived.)
It would have been easier on everyone if I'd just roasted all that eggplant, which is what I did with the 15 beautiful dark purple ones I recently bought from our Amish neighbors.
Recipe below. . .
You can't go wrong with roasting, and this has to be one of the easiest—and the healthiest—ways to eat eggplant. Forget the cumbersome peeling, salting, and draining so many eggplant recipes call for. Just dice it up, toss it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stick it in the oven. Additional vegetables are optional.
While looking for a simple roasted eggplant recipe I'd seen somewhere last year (and never did find), I came across this Roasted Eggplant Spread from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style. One of the reviewers mentioned that the roasted vegetables tasted great straight from the oven, and they were right. I liked them better than the finished spread.
I'm now a roasted eggplant junkie. A few times I skipped the red pepper, and even just the plain eggplant tastes good. I've kept the leftovers in the fridge for several days, reheating them gently in the microwave, but I even like it cold.
And now I'm ready to branch out. There's an Easy Pasta Fresca in Recipes from America's Small Farms: Fresh Ideas for the Season's Bounty that calls for tossing roasted eggplant, red peppers, and onion with a fresh tomato and an herb vinaigrette and serving it over pasta or rice.
In the beautiful and inspiring P. Allen Smith's Seasonal Recipes from the Garden, there's an Eggplant and Feta Salad that combines roasted eggplant chunks with feta cheese, fresh mint, and cherry tomatoes in a caper vinaigrette. And these Roasted Eggplant Wraps from Martha Stewart add chickpeas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella to the mix.
I may have to expand the garden back to 10,000 square feet.
Just a few minutes of prep work and you're ready for roasting.
Easy Roasted Eggplant with Red Onion and Sweet Red Peppers
Makes about 3½ cups — Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
The proportions of eggplant, onion, and peppers are flexible, so feel free to add more or less depending on your taste and what you have. This amount of vegetables fits nicely on a commercial half size sheet pan.
At less than $14 each, a couple of heavy duty commercial rimmed baking sheets are one of the most useful and best kitchen deals around. Treat them well—I line mine with sheets of unbleached parchment paper, which is wonderful stuff—and they'll last for ages. I've been using the heck out of some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts. I've even baked brownies in them, and of course they're great for cookies.
I've been making this dish with King Arthur red bell peppers and Red Candy Apple onions from my kitchen garden (the onions did really well this year and have kept beautifully for months in the pantry) and the classic bell shaped, Italian dark purple eggplants, but I'm sure other varieties of eggplant would work well, too.
I like my roasted vegetables nice and soft and browned, but if you let them cook too much, the eggplant skin starts to toughen (or you can peel the whole eggplants if you want; the skin comes off easily). Keep in mind that the eggplant, onion, and peppers all shrink down a lot while roasting.
The weights listed here are for the prepped, cubed vegetables. (I love my Oxo Good Grips 11-pound scale and often use it several times a day; the pull-out display is awesome.)
6 cups 1-inch diced eggplant (about 20 ounces or 3 medium Italian bell shaped), peeled if desired
2 cups 1-inch diced sweet red peppers (about 8 ounces or 2 large bell peppers)
1½ cups 1-inch diced red onion (about 8 ounces or 1 medium large)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional additions (add after roasting vegetables):
Chopped fresh parsley
Chopped fresh basil
Crumbled or small diced feta cheese
Finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Small halved cherry tomatoes
A handful or two of organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
A few drops of Sriracha sauce
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Heat the oven to 400°.
Use a large spoon to toss the eggplant, pepper, and onion together in a large bowl and drizzle evenly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss well.
Spread the vegetables on a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. Roast until lightly browned and soft, about 45 to 60 minutes, tossing twice during cooking. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot or at room temperature, as is or gussied up as desired. The plain roasted vegetables will keep in the refrigerator for two to three days. (They may not look real pretty, but they'll still taste great.)
—Serve over hot rice
—Put the hot roasted vegetables in a large bowl and toss with chopped fresh parsley and basil, a little more olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and some small halved cherry tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve over hot pasta, topped with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.
© FarmgirlFare.com, where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and purple is the new favorite color.