Eggplant: An Underrated Summer Beauty

Mini Eggplant by David Lebech

Have you ever really looked at an eggplant? It’s a beautiful vegetable. Strikingly purple, it comes in various shades, shapes, and sizes. I remember the day when I first realized I liked eggplant. We got loads of it in our CSA in Atlanta, so I had to learn how to use it. Weelicious came to my rescue over and over again. And then I discovered Smitten Kitchen, who also gave me loads of ideas on how to use this summer beauty. I’ve branched out a bit since then, but still remain true to my favorites.

Three weeks ago, we got our first eggplant in our CSA share. I was with a friend, who refused to put eggplant in her bag, and I promptly chose one and threw it in her bag for her. “But I don’t like eggplant,” she said. “WHAT?! It’s so yummy! You just have to find the right recipe. Get one. Try it. I’ll send you my favorites.”

If you, like my friend, are getting tons of eggplant that you just don’t know what to do with, I’m coming to your rescue. I’ve made it my mission to help you fall in love with what I think is probably one of the most underrated vegetables out there. Today, I share with you what I think are the very best eggplant recipes out there. Try out a few … and come back and let me know what you think. I want to know what your favorites are!

Eggplant Burgers - These are a staple in our house. We literally make hundreds of them every summer, and my kids eat them all winter long. When I don’t know what to feed them, I grab an eggplant burger out of the freezer, pop it in the oven, and serve it with a smoothie on the side. You should hear the cheers when I say “Want an eggplant burger for lunch?”

Eggplant Parm Melts - Deb has taught me that you can turn anything into an open faced sandwich and it be a hit. These are quick and easy, and who doesn’t love that on a summer weeknight?

Eggplant Calzone - This may be my absolute favorite beat-the-winter-blues meal. When I’m overloaded with summer eggplant, I roast the small ones and freeze them in pre-measured baggies. It makes it easy to grab a bag in the morning, and make a calzone at night. My kids don’t like these, but I just make them a cheese pizza ;-). I make the recipe in this cookbook, but this recipe looks pretty scrumptious too.

Sautéed Eggplant with Honey - Can we talk about surprising recipes that my children LOVE? This is one of them. I think they ate an entire small eggplant between the two of them when I made this last week. You soak the eggplant in milk overnight (although I’ll be honest, sometimes it gets soaked for 2 nights), lightly coat it in flour mixed with salt, and saute in olive oil. This is a summer favorite. We serve it with a side of fruit (maybe watermelon or cantaloupe or peaches and blueberries) and sometimes corn on the cob, depending on what we’ve picked up at the farm that week.

Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt and Tomato Relish - if you’re an eggplant hater, don’t start with this recipe. If you love eggplant, you’ll love this. It’s one of my favorite summer lunches. No one else in the family likes it though, so I keep this one as a personal indulgence. But I could’t leave it off a list of favorites!

Smoky Eggplant Dip - this is a new favorite. A friend came over last week and her 7-year-old devoured the bowl I had stashed in my fridge. I love it served with small pitas or flatbread dippers, or homemade baguettes, or a plateful of raw veggies. I’m going to experiment with freezing it this year - we’ll see how it goes!

Quinoa-crusted Eggplant & Zucchini Parmesan - This one is not fast. Nor is it easy. But ya’ll …. this recipe is out of this world delicious. You can use any pasta sauce, but this marinara is the best I’ve ever had and takes this recipe up to the next level. This is a great celebration meal. Or if you’re insane like me, it’s a great meal to double or triple when you’re up to your eyeballs with zucchini and eggplant and stash it in the freezer for when you want something that feels luxurious but you don’t want to cook.

Pasta with Eggplant Puree - My 5-year-old begged for this recipe last week. It’s SO easy, and so delicious. It also freezes well, so I make several batches and toss it in the freezer for winter. You can use it over any pasta, but the small chunky noodles are my favorite. I think it’d be great with grilled chicken on top.

Roasted Eggplant Soup - For all you soup lovers out there, this is a good one. It doesn’t have the best look, but the taste is out of this world and it’s also a good freezer recipe. In the winter (or really early Spring, when I’m craving Summer), I pull it out and add some white beans and croutons and it feels like a real gourmet treat.

Ratatouille - No summer would be complete without a good ratatouille, am I right? Just the name ratatouille is fun to say, and this recipe is suuuuuuuuper easy, extra freezable, and gives you so many options later down the road. My favorite way to use it is to put it on a pizza crust or flatbread with some goat cheese. Pop it in a 400-degree oven for a bit and you have a better lunch than you can buy anywhere. The chicken stew recipe in the link is pretty delicious too. It’s great served over pasta, and I think you could even throw it in a risotto and find it to be delicious.

There you have it - ten favorite eggplant recipes to get you trying something new. Now you have no excuse to let that beautiful eggplant sit unloved! What will you try first?

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