Get Cookin' With Eggplant This Fall

Bring the autumnal color scheme of creamy whites and deep purples to your dinner table with eggplants. We've rounded up recipes for eggplant Parmesan, Baba Ganoush, Ratatouille and Grilled Eggplant.

Eggplants are hearty and savory, making them a perfect substitution for meat in vegetarian dishes.

Instead of lamenting the loss of summer squash and plentiful peppers with the changing season, dry your tears on an eggplant. Not only are these garden veggies perfectly on-trend for a fall color scheme, but they’re also perfectly delicious. 

Eggplants are known for their beautiful purple color and long shape, but they come in many varieties. They were named for the white variety, whose creamy color and shorter shape resembles chicken eggs. Tao Zang, of Hamilton Farm, sells five varieties at Farmers Market of the Ozarks and at the Greater Springfield Farmers Market. In addition to classic eggplants, Zang, her husband Hamilton Lor, and their son Tim Lor grow green Thai, long Japanese and bitter Asian eggplants.

In a raw state, eggplant’s tough flesh and bitter skin make it a hard veggie to love as-is, but with a little TLC in the kitchen, eggplants can be a great addition to many dishes. To counteract the eggplant’s natural bitterness, many recipes recommend rinsing, salting or draining before cooking to soften the flesh and make the veggie more palatable. Zang says she likes to saute Thai eggplants, which are less bitter, or even to eat them raw dipped in salt. Because of their heft and thickness, eggplants are often substituted for meat in vegetarian dishes. The thick flesh absorbs fats and oils, so this hearty vegetable is best used in rich dishes made with heavy sauces. If you want to sweeten up your eggplants without adding calories, try grilling them—this holds their shape while softening them enough to eliminate any bitterness. 

When picking an eggplant, look for glossy skin that doesn’t bounce back when you press it—this means it’s tender and ready to eat. And with eggplants, wetter is better. Rainy, overcast weather means the veggie soaks up more moisture and is less bitter. Zang says when wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, eggplants will keep for several weeks, but we’ve gathered enough eggplanty recipes to use up your stash in four dinners’ time.

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan with Tomato Sauce

Recipe courtesy The Food Channel

Ingredients for Eggplant Parmesan:
2 or 3 medium eggplants, cut horizontally into ½-inch rounds (You will need 16 slices.)
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
5 cups panko
Butter for greasing the pan
5 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces grated mozzarella
½ pound fresh mozzarella, freshly sliced
Flour, salt and pepper for frying eggplant

To Prepare Eggplant Parmesan:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of eight individual 4-by-6-inch baking dishes. Place panko in a large shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, whisk eggs and water together. Season each eggplant slice with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge each slice in flour, tapping off excess. Dip slices in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Shake off excess breading and transfer each eggplant slice to a baking sheet. In a saute pan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Working in small batches, fry eggplant slices, turning once, for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Using tongs, transfer to paper towel–lined plate. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato paste
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup basil leaves, chopped
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

To Prepare Tomato Sauce:
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute for five minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until thick.

To Assemble:
Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with tomato sauce and arrange eggplant slices on top. Cover eggplant slices with more sauce and grated mozzarella. Repeat to make more layers, ending with sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

How to Make Baba Ganoush

Recipe adapted from Riad Matar of Riad’s Mediterranean Dining

Editor’s Note: Matar has been making his patron-favorite baba ganoush recipe for more than 15 years, and he says his secret is his special tahini. He claims his baba ganoush is better than what he gets when he visits his mother in Dubai. Matar guards his recipe closely, but we got him to tell us how to replicate it at home. He didn’t divulge amounts of ingredients, so grab a tasting spoon and play it by ear as you cook.

1 to 2 large purple eggplants, whole
Tahini (about ⅓ cup is a good start)
Several cloves of fresh garlic, peeled (Matar says he uses a ton of garlic, enough to “keep the devil away.” There’s no olive oil in this recipe, and the oils from the garlic make up for the missing oil, so be liberal. A handful of cloves should be a good start, then adjust to your preference.)
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt to taste
Olive oil for serving

To Prepare:
Using a bamboo shish kebab skewer, pierce your eggplants all over. This step is key so that your whole eggplants don’t explode on you as you heat them up. Leave them whole, uncut, to keep the eggplants from drying out. Place your whole, pierced eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet, then place the baking sheet on a grill over high heat (about 450ºF). Grill the eggplants until the skin is blistered and charred and the insides are soft. The eggplants will leak juices that resemble a tar, and the baking sheet will catch those juices. Do not discard. Set the baking sheet aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, peel the skin off the eggplant and chop off and discard the stem. Roughly chop the eggplant then place in a food processor along with the juices, garlic, the juice of a lemon, a sprinkle (about a teaspoon) of sea salt and tahini. Process on low to combine. The tahini will thicken the baba ganoush, so if it’s too thin, add more tahini, and if it’s too thick, add water one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Chill before serving. Mixture will thicken in the fridge. Drizzle the top with a small amount of oil and serve with warm pita, or, if you are going low-carb, with cucumber, fresh red cabbage, tomato and lettuce. 

How to Make Ratatouille 

Recipe courtesy The Food Channel

2 cups diced eggplant (from 1 large eggplant)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups yellow onion, diced
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
Soft polenta, for serving

To Prepare:
Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute six to eight minutes, or until onions become translucent. Add eggplants and saute five minutes or until eggplant begins to soften. Add zucchini and saute until hot. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes and herbs. Saute until zucchini and eggplant are cooked to desired doneness. Season again with salt and pepper, if needed. To serve, spoon polenta into bowls and top with warm ratatouille. 

Grilled Eggplant with Red Onion

Recipe Courtesy The Food Channel

Ingredients for Soy Basting Sauce:
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup butter
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup soy sauce

To Prepare Soy Basting Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir until butter and sugar are melted and all ingredients are combined. Simmer mixture until thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. 

Ingredients for Grilled Eggplant and Red Onion:
1 eggplant, sliced 1 inch thick
1 red onion, sliced 1 inch thick
Soy Basting Sauce

To Prepare Grilled Eggplant and Red Onion:
Brush glaze on both sides of eggplants and onions. Place all pieces on a hot grill and cook for five to eight minutes on each side. Remove from grill and let stand until ready to serve. 

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