Eggplant is one of the more delicious vegetables if you know what to do with it. Under that thick skin lies an interior that's creamy and delicious, and cooks up even softer. Somehow, though, it still retains a meaty texture that's very similar to other proteins. It's for this reason that eggplant is so commonly seen in vegetarian dishes.
Even those who are not vegetarian can enjoy the taste and the many vitamins and nutrients eggplant has to offer. Plus, there are so many ways to enjoy it! Take a look at the seven ways to cook eggplant that follow. Choose your favorite one to start with and move on to the others once you've mastered it. This is a vegetable that calls out for creativity.
1. Roast it
Like any other vegetable, roasting eggplant brings out its richness and natural sugars. It needs very little oil and can be done in a number of ways. Cut the eggplant right in half, place it cut side down on a baking sheet and bake it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. When done, you can scoop out the soft flesh and use it in dips, spreads or as a delicious side dish.
But you don't have to roast the whole thing at once. Cube it or slice it and toss it with a little olive oil before baking at 400 degrees F. Bake for about 20 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through the cooking time.
2. Grill it
Like most things placed on the grill, cooking eggplant over flames or coals enriches it with a subtle smoky flavor. Let the eggplant sit in a marinade or coat it with your favorite spices, herbs, and seasonings. Place it on a hot grill for about five minutes, flip it and cook just until the eggplant is browned on the other side.
3. Braise it
Eggplant does well in long, slowly braised dishes because it becomes buttery soft but still retains its shape, keeping it from falling apart in your stew or slowly braised chicken dish. One of the most well-known dishes that stars eggplant is ratatouille. Most braised dishes call for the eggplant to keep its skin, which is edible, as it helps the eggplant keep its shape. You will likely have to cube it, though, before adding it to a recipe.
4. Fry it
If you're just starting to eat eggplant, you may want to fry it. Deep-fried foods are super comforting and can bring a certain familiarity to an otherwise unknown ingredient. Although you can bread it, eggplant does especially well when it's battered. A simple batter of flour, salt, a little lemon juice, and a liquid such as tap water, tonic water, or even beer will work wonders. Once the batter is ready, slice the eggplant into medallions or cut them it up into fries. Either way, it's going to be scrumptious!
5. Make burgers or meatballs
Sure, portobello mushrooms may get all the glory when it comes to vegetarian burgers, but eggplant can sub in for burgers and meatballs and really shine. Just roast the eggplant until it's soft, scoop it into a bowl with some flour or bread crumbs and seasonings, and shape into whatever form of protein you're craving. Once the eggplant is formed, bake it again at a high heat and enjoy your creative vegetarian dish.
6. Stir fry it
Eggplant is a popular ingredient used in stir-fries, especially when those stir-fries take on an Asian flair. Cube the eggplant, cook in hot oil over high heat and saute until golden. You can typically add eggplant into the dish at the same time you add other soft vegetables such as mushrooms or zucchini.
7. Create zoodles
Zucchini is the most common vegetable to make zoodles with. After all, that's how zoodles got its name—turning zucchini into noodles. But if you have a spiralizer you can turn any vegetable into zoodles, and they'll all be delicious. If you don't have a spiralizer but still want to make a really creative dish, use a vegetable peeler to cut the eggplant into long thin ribbons and use them the same way you would zoodles—by boiling them, stir-frying them or enjoying them raw in a salad.