Eggplant is a pretty weird vegetable, right? For one, if it isn’t cooked right (and by “right” I mean basically overcooked and covered with oil), it can be bitter and have a funky sponginess, which I think is, well, weird. But when it is cooked right, eggplant is not only delicious but it’s very satisfying, almost meaty. To me, it’s one of the few veggies that can really stand alone as a main course (Radishes for dinner? Just doesn’t fly.)
In the past I’ve usually either made eggplant parm (“fried” being the ultimate expression of “cooked right” when it comes to a lot of foods, especially eggplant) or cooked the eggplant on the grill pan with LOTS of olive oil. Both ways are delicious — but both also are a bit of a grease-splattering production. I’ve never liked eggplant steamed or poached (both of which I’ve tried in an effort to lighten things up, and both of which make dismally slimy and tasteless eggplant). I do love grilled eggplant, but now I’ve discovered the single easiest and most delicious eggplant cooking method: oven roasting.
This is so easy and mess-free that it makes a terrific mid-week meal (and a great use for Summer Tomato Sauce). It uses much less oil than most methods yet still tastes creamy and rich and to. die. for.
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a few drops of olive oil to grease a baking sheet or large roasting pan (with a paper towel or paintbrush). Cut the eggplant in half (at the waist), then cut each half into quarters lengthwise and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, so you end up with pointy-topped spear-wedges about 3-4 inches long and 1 inch thick. Place the spears on the pan skin side down. Put the olive oil in a shallow dish or teacup, then brush the spears so they are lightly coated with the olive oil (You don’t need a basting brush for this. Any — preferably clean and unused — paintbrush from Ace hardware will work; mine is about 1-inch wide.). The oil will soak in quickly and leave a yellowish tint. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt. Roast in the hot oven until very soft and slightly browned, about 35 minutes (check it after 25 minutes, but it will probably need another 5-10 minutes; it’s hard to overcook this one.).