It’s the vegetable to be gushed over at brunch and the one worth of recipe swapping at book club. And if it’s on the menu with the Parmesan descriptor attached, all bets are off — we’re ordering it. Sturdy yet tender, filling but wholesome, the eggplant is the king of meatless for a reason.
Though it works as a standup main course, the following dishes speak to eggplant’s versatility as we transform it into easy, hand-held starters. Each of these small bites helps to ring in a meal with flair. Call them finger foods, call them bite-size — either way, compact eggplant appetizers are a lovely way to kick off dinner.
To start, Giada’s Mini Eggplant Parmesan are reminiscent of the classic dish, though they’re not engulfed in tomato sauce and cheese. That way, you can pick them up with your hands for easy eating. Similarly, Food Network Magazine’s Eggplant Ricotta Bites (pictured above) are crispy and to the point. Each circle is topped with a dollop of ricotta and a sprinkling of diced tomatoes.
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We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers and our friends at HGTV Gardens to host Summer Fest 2012, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Today we’re exploring eggplants.
As far as produce goes, eggplant stands out as one of the few items that can truly carry a meal. I mean, think about it. When dinnertime rolls around, who’s really down for an entire entrée of green beans, carrots or onions? Not me. Eggplant, on the other hand, is meaty and versatile, so there’s no need to give it side dish-only status. Once the slick skin is slid off and it’s all sliced up, it just takes the right addition of heat to take it from its raw, bitter form to supple and slightly sweet.
Now that eggplant is in season, this is the time to give it a headliner position on your dinner table. They’re pretty good throughout the year, yes, but sometimes the smooth purple skins of out-of-season ‘plants are tainted with bruises or the shape is even deformed — and that just won’t do. Rest assured, however, that with the season ranging from July to October, you can find eggplant at its absolute peak for most of the year. As you transition from summer to fall, treat it as the centerpiece of your meals. These recipes should get you started.
If you plan on growing your own eggplant, be sure to check out HGTV Gardens for great tips like how far apart to grow each plant — do not over-plant, as eggplant will produce very well and over a long period of time.
Get more eggplant recipes from family and friends
After making such a delicious and simple meal with my garden-fresh summer squash, I decided the trek home would again be worth my while in order to get my hands on another great veggie: white eggplant. While both kinds are great when grown in your own backyard, the white eggplant variety produces many more individual eggplants — the five pictured above are just a quarter of what is on the plant on any given day.
Eggplant holds up great on the grill. You can have it as an appetizer, like in Bobby’s Spicy Hoisin Glazed Eggplant or Giada’s Grilled Eggplant and Goat Cheese Salad. Or use it in classic (and cheesy) Eggplant Parmesan. Grilled eggplant also gives a great smoky flavor to Baba Ghanoush.
In order to really showcase the eggplant, I chose to serve it marinated in a miso glaze and grilled.
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We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Summer Fest 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Today, we’re exploring eggplant.
A quick search on the Internet for eggplant recipes will quickly result in one Parmigiana recipe after another. While I can’t help but love that fried, cheesy dish — especially Alex Guarnaschelli’s version — there are numerous recipes that feature this purple, pear-shaped berry in lighter ways, especially on the grill, which will keep your kitchen cool during the summer months.
Read on for grilled eggplant recipes »