I first learned to make this eggplant dish when I was visiting a cousin in Boston. He was living in a rambling house with lots of roomies and a student budget. Creativity was important! This meltingly tender broiled eggplant infused with olive oil and flecked with fresh rosemary takes full advantage of seasonal produce. Just grab some of the fresh eggplants popping up in your local farmer’s market and make this super simple recipe.
Since this recipe is made nearly entirely with pantry staples, all you have to buy is the eggplant. Fresher eggplants are less bitter than their out-of-season cousins and the standard dark, nearly black supermarket offerings. And, the farmer’s market should have a much wider selection. I used Graffiti eggplant (streaky purple), but white eggplant, or fairy eggplant (the smaller streaky variety, which is particularly tender) works just as well.
Look for smaller eggplants with firm skin. A wrinkled eggplant is an old eggplant. The smaller ones are sweeter too. Check the stem to make sure it’s fresh; it should be free of mold or mushiness. An eggplant that’s heavy for its size is better. Lighter ones are likely to be hollow and less fleshy (so less to eat).
There’s some slightly inaccurate folk wisdom about “male” and “female” eggplants, with males having fewer seeds. The flowers are both male and female, but the fruit isn’t. However, if you want fewer seeds, check the bottom of the eggplant. There’s an indentation which is sometimes oval and sometimes round. Eggplants with an oval indentation seem to have fewer seeds than the round ones. So pick the oval eggplant (because you want fruit, not seeds).
One of the things I like about cooking is that you can take one recipe or meal and transform it into something else entirely. For example, this vegetarian eggplant sandwich is a variation on the sabich sandwich eaten in Iraq and Israel. First, I made another batch of the Israeli salad recipe from two weeks ago (the original way, with lemon and bell pepper instead of the mint and lime), and then I added pita, fried eggplant, hummus, spinach, and a hard boiled egg.
And voila! A side dish is now a full meal. The spinach isn’t traditional, but I had some handy and I figured it would go well with the other ingredients.
It makes a great lunch (or light dinner), without a lot of fussing. You hard boil the egg, fry the eggplant and onion, and then just stuff everything into the pita. You can even follow local tradition and eat it for breakfast on a weekend morning; it has eggs, it must be breakfast food).
Some versions of this sandwich use Israeli pickles and pickled mango sauce. These are both probably delicious, but I didn’t add them because I hate buying large containers of ingredients only to use a few spoonfuls. If you don’t mind that, or plan to eat a lot of sandwiches, you can find both on Amazon.
Vegetarian sandwich with eggplant, hard boiled egg, hummus, and chopped Israeli salad.
three slices eggplant, cut into strips
pinch or two of kosher salt (to draw out the moisture from the eggplant)
hard boiled egg
2-3T olive oil
2 tsp onion, diced
handful spinach (optional)
2 T persian/israeli salad (cukes, tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, optional bell peppers, cut into tiny pieces; the full recipe is here)
2 T hummus
one pocket pita bread
Salt the eggplant and let it sit while you boil the egg.
Fill a small saucepan (preferably enamel or stainless steel) with water and add the egg. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the egg for 12 minutes (right out of the fridge, 10 if it was sitting on the counter for a while).
Remove the egg from the pan with a large slotted spoon and hold it under cold running water (or plunge it into an ice bath). The shell will come off more easily if it's cold.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the eggplant. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes.
Now add the spinach, if using, and cook for one minute until it wilts.
Remove the eggplant mixture from the heat.
Peel the egg and cut it into slices.
Cut open the pita, and add the spinach.
Add eggplant mixture, egg, salad, and hummus in layers.
Substitutions and Variations for Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich
Add the pickles and the mangos
Layer in some tahini sauce
Shred some cabbage and put that between the layers
Include bell pepper (about one mini pepper) in the Israeli salad
This is all my brother’s fault. He was raving about the Sichuan chinese chicken and eggplant with garlic sauce that he had at a local restaurant. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, and I already had the eggplant (bought to make eggplant parmesan), so I figured I would give it a try.
This recipe is adapted from The New York Times. It originally called for minced garlic, soybean paste, and hot chili paste. I had the garlic, but not the other ingredients, so I improvised. I replaced the soybean paste with hoisin sauce, and used chili garlic sauce instead of the garlic and chili paste. Doing that also saved me an extra step (no garlic to chop). I reduced the water a bit to compensate. That recipe also called for ground pork (which I didn’t have because I’d eaten the last of it with my black beans, so I used chicken instead).
Eggplant is notorious for soaking up oil. There are several schools of thought about preparing eggplant in order to minimize this.
Some insist you have to salt it and let it sit (to draw out the water) and dry it with a paper towel and let it sit for 45 minutes. Others say to put it in water, salt the water, cover that with a lid or a heavy weight, and let it sit for 15 minutes, then drain, and dry it off.
A third way (which I just learned, and wouldn’t necessarily do for Chinese food), is to soak the eggplant in milk.
I tend to use the first method, but I confess I usually don’t wait that long. I’m too impatient (and hungry). I get around it by slicing the eggplant very thin.
If you want your eggplant extra crispy, dredge it in cornstarch before you cook it.
Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
8-12 thin slices of eggplant
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1tsp potato starch or corn starch
1/2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 tsp hoisin sauce
2T neutral oil
1 chicken thigh
Slice the eggplant and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle it with a bit of salt, toss everything together and let it sit while you go on to the next step.
In a separate, small bowl, make the sauce. Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, and starch (potato or corn) until the starch dissolves. Add the water, chili garlic sauce, and hoisin sauce.
Heat half the oil in a large frying pan or wok.
Slice the meat off the chicken thigh (if you are using bone-in), or cut into strips if you have a boneless thigh (I always get the bone-in, toss the bone in the pan first, let it cook a few minutes longer than the rest, and save it for stock).
Cook the chicken for 5 minutes. Once it's done, transfer it to a plate while you cook the eggplant.
Dry the eggplant with a paper towel.
Add the remaining oil to the pan. When it gets hot, add the eggplant slices.
Cook, stirring, and turning the eggplant occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until it's brown and slightly crispy.
Now add the sauce. Cook another minute or so, then add the chicken back to the pan.
Raise the heat to high and bring the entire thing to a boil. Let that cook for a minute or two.
Sweet, slightly tangy and great for this dish, as well as marinades. Try it with a simple pork roast, sliced and served with steamed bread and scallions. Or, marinate fish with garlic, hoisin, and five spice powder. It’s also great in stir fries.
In case you haven’t guessed (since I keep mentioning it), I love this stuff. It’s got more heat than sriracha (which has sugar), plus the extra flavor boost from garlic. I put it on eggs, in marinades, stir-fries, veggies, enchiladas, soup. Someone on Amazon mentioned mixing it with some plum sauce and cooking it with chicken. I’m going to try that next!
If you want to be authentic, get the chili paste. Use it for this recipe, or for making Thai or Indonesian recipes. It makes a great starting base for marinades and sauces. Mix it into meatloaf or top some scrambled eggs. Think of it as sriracha with more kick.
Summer is gone, but I still had a few tomatoes and eggplants left from the farmer’s market. There was also some fresh mozzarella cheese in the fridge, and a friend posted a lovely photo of her caprese salad. Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d put them together to make pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant).
It’s a slightly spicy pasta dish with fresh eggplant, and tomato sauce, topped with manchego cheese. This is a great meal when you’re in a hurry, as it’s pretty easy to throw together.
The recipe is typically made with long pasta, but I only had short, curly pasta so I used that instead.
The original recipe (from the New York Times) called for lots and lots of olive oil. I love olive oil, but so does eggplant. It just slurps it up! However, I found that by cooking the eggplant on a low flame, it used a lot less olive than it would otherwise.
Pasta alla norma (with eggplant and red pepper flakes)
2-3 slices of eggplant, cut into thin strips (like fries)
2-3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
generous pinch dried pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp tomato sauce
1/4 cup pasta
manchego cheese or other hard Italian cheese (grated) for topping
Fill a 2 quart saucepan about halfway with water, heat on high, and bring it to a boil.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on low heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
While the eggplant is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
Remove the eggplant from the pan.
Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and tomato sauce to the frying pan.
When the garlic softens, add the eggplant back into the pan.
Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the eggplant mixture.
Stir to combine the pasta and the eggplant.
Pour the finished dish into a bowl and top with grated cheese.
If you don't have Manchego cheese, you can use Romano instead.
This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Just layer slices of fresh tomato, fresh unsalted mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
I have loved eggplant parmigiana (or parmesan, if you prefer) since I was a child. Back then, it was a special treat when we went to the dentist. Yes, the dentist!
There was a restaurant near my dentist’s office called Pippo’s (which is now, sadly, gone), that made the best eggplant parmigiana I have ever tasted. Mom tried her best to get the recipe, but without much luck. Drat!
Still, it was an incentive to have good checkups, so we could go out to lunch afterward! I’m sure we were the only kids in the neighborhood who looked forward to going to the dentist!
The restaurant, naturally, made it in huge batches, but this eggplant parmesan recipe is the perfect serving size for one person. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. You can put the whole thing together in about twenty five minutes.
I did “cheat” and use sauce in a jar, rather than making my own, but so what. I do often make my own, but I didn’t have any handy, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty either.
When picking out your eggplant at the store, choose a light one (in weight, not color). The heavier ones have more seeds and are more likely to be bitter.
I know there is controversy about whether or not to salt the eggplant first. Some say it’s a must, to draw out the bitterness, and to cut down on the oil (eggplant does love to soak up oil). Others say don’t bother. I didn’t bother. One reason being that it takes time (and I was hungry), another being that I prefer less salt anyway.
Either way, just slice the eggplant very thin, dip it in egg, then flour (I used rice flour, but you can use the regular kind), and fry the slices in olive oil.
Top those with your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used a Robert Rothschild sauce, which was so thick I had to dilute it with some tomato sauce; Silver Palette sauces are good too), some fresh mozzarella, and pop it in the toaster oven to bake until the cheese melts.
Since it’s an eggplant parmesan recipe for one person, you don’t have to heat up the whole oven (and the whole kitchen).
I served it with some fresh basil on top and a simple side dish of pasta tossed with olive oil and butter.
1/2 beaten egg (don't worry, we'll use this for something else in another recipe)
1/3 C spaghetti sauce (approx, I didn't really measure)
3-4 slices fresh mozzarella
2-3 leaves basil
Remove the tray from your toaster oven, and preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse the eggplant and cut about 8-10 thin slices. Then, beat the egg in a small bowl and divide into two portions. You'll use half for this recipe and save the rest for something else.
Measure the flour and pour that into a second small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Next, take a medium sized frying pan and set it on medium-high heat. Once it starts to warm, add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Dip the eggplant slices twice, first in the egg, and then in the seasoned flour. When all the eggplant slices have been dipped, fry them gently in the olive oil, turning them once, until they are brown on both sides. Add more oil if necessary.
Remove the eggplant slices and set them on the toaster oven tray. Top with spaghetti sauce, then the slices of mozzarella.
Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the sauce heats up. Garnish with fresh basil.