Eggplant, I want to apologize. I’ve done you wrong. I think a lot of us have. For most of my life I didn’t eat it, finding on good days it had the texture of an old kitchen sponge. Even worse was when it became soft, slimy and helpless, its skin slowly separating from the stringy flesh. One really good eggplant parmesan later and I became to embrace a new veggie in my diet. My old boss would grill it, top with a tomato/pepper sauce and drizzle with yogurt. It was absolutely divine. My favorite Thai restaurant covers it in sticky soy sweetness and basil, making it one of my favorite dishes. I discovered, as I most often do with vegetables, that they are better when cooked right. Imagine!
But, while I started to love it, I was afraid to cook it myself. Everything I read stressed the importance of scoring and salting your eggplant, so that it loses that squishy peanut packing quality and any bitterness in its flesh. I would dutifully line my counters with clean towels, place my sliced, salted and scored eggplant down, and slowly let the liquid drain out. I would blot blot blot each little round perfectly, aim for the right pan temperature and oil amount, and yet it never came out right. I would end up using tons of oil or the eggplant lacked flavor. And I was using all my clean towels in the process! I somewhat gave up on it, passing over its deep purple flesh for a less intimidating ingredient.
And then I made a discovery. Well, I should say, I read something on a blog that debunked every myth I had heard about cooking eggplant and my mind is blown (The Wednesday Chef, at it again). And now I’m a bit of an eggplant junkie because of it. This method could not be easier. No salting, no blotting, no individual brushing of oil needed. Slice your eggplant. Cook dry. Season. DONE.
The Eggplant Method
Cooking the eggplant (either on the grill or a cast iron or pan) without oil, until golden, browns each slice and gently cooks the center. Then, I pull it off the heat and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil. The oil does not soak through the flesh like it used to, but instead lightly coats each bit.
I then sprinkle with some salt, then maybe a little balsamic vinegar for kicks, and a few herbs I have on hand. Last time I added a smashed garlic clove that I removed before serving, that gave it the most subtle garlic flavor. You could make it spicy with red chili flake, or add ginger and soy sauce to eat with rice. Or dollop feta or goat cheese on top, mix into farro…the possibilities are endless. Right now, I really love serving it on an antipasto platter with good bread and fresh tomatoes. Any leftovers, and there rarely is, I snag to go on my weekday sandwich.