If you’ve been intimidated by eggplant in the past, it’s time to give it a try. These big purple globes turn soft and tender when roasted, with a smoky flavor and substantial texture that makes them perfect for vegetarian dishes. Read on for some of our best tips for working with eggplant, plus simple and delicious ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Eggplants are at their best at the end of the summer. Choose smooth, firm, glossy-skinned eggplant with green caps and stems. Avoid any that are wrinkled, torn, bruised or scarred or that have brown, dried caps. Store eggplants in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Prep tips: Rinse the eggplants and then, using a large knife, trim the green top. If an eggplant is large with lots of seeds, or if the flesh looks dark and watery, sprinkle salt on it after slicing and place in a colander set in the sink for 30 minutes. Salting helps extract the bitter juices and also prepares eggplant for deep-frying. Young eggplants or Asian varieties can be cooked without salting or peeling. If roasting eggplants whole, prick holes in the skin with a fork to keep them from bursting.
Uses: Large globe eggplants are ideal for roasting, broiling and grilling. Once cooked, they are wonderful pureed into spreads, incorporated into pasta sauces and served as chilled antipasti. Longer, thinner Asian eggplants lend themselves well to stir-frying, braising in curry sauces and pickling.
Variations: Specialty varieties of eggplants can be ivory, rose colored, striped or striated — the flavor doesn’t vary much by color, but these unusual eggplants can make a beautiful presentation.
Baba Ghanoush: Prick a large eggplant with a fork. Grill on medium-high until soft. Peel eggplant, place in a food processor and pulse with 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup lemon juice, salt and pepper. While processing, drizzle in olive oil.
Caponata: Saute diced onion, red bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant in olive oil until almost tender. Add diced tomatoes, sugar, red wine vinegar, capers and raisins and simmer until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and toasted pine nuts.
Grilled Eggplant with Ricotta Salata: Halve Japanese eggplants lengthwise, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high, turning once, until tender. Top with crumbled ricotta salata, diced tomatoes, chopped basil olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant: Halve eggplants lengthwise; scoop out flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch layer. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a baking dish. Saute diced onion in olive oil; add minced garlic, cumin, cinnamon, ground lamb, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper and cook until browned. Fill eggplants with lamb mixture and bake at 400 degrees F until soft.