Start to Finish: 90 to 100 minutesServings: 4 to 6Difficulty Level: Beginner
Roasting gives eggplant rich, delicate flavor that's delicious on its own, but is also an ideal canvas for your favorite seasonings. Maximizing flavor from this sometimes under-appreciated vegetable hinges on salting the slices and letting them sit for a while before roasting them. This mellows the sometimes bitter flavor, leaving you with a fragrant side dish that's easy enough for any night of the week -- but elegant enough to be worthy of a special occasion.
- 2 large eggplants
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Rinse the eggplants under cold water and wipe them dry with a clean paper towel.
Peel the skin, if desired. Although most varieties have skin that can be a bit on the tough side, leaving the skin on helps hold the slices together, adds texture and boosts the nutrients in your dish.
Slice the eggplants crosswise with a clean, sharp knife to make 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Arrange the slices on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and liberally sprinkle both sides with salt.
Salting the eggplant before cooking it helps minimize bitterness and prevents it from absorbing too much oil during the roasting process.
Let the salted eggplant slices sit at room temperature for approximately 1 hour before rinsing them thoroughly to remove the excess salt. Lightly press each slice to get rid of excess moisture and pat each dry.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with foil and applying a light coating of olive oil.
Divide the slices between the 2 sheets, placing them in a single layer.
Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and pepper and roast them for 20 to 30 minutes without flipping them. When the slices are cooked, they should be golden and tender.
With its light flavor, eggplant pairs well with a variety of spices and seasonings. At a minimum, finish your roasted eggplant with a sprinkle of salt and a little cracked black pepper to enhance the deep flavor achieved during the roasting process. Some other seasoning ideas include the following:
- Grab a small bundle of fresh herbs -- basil, oregano, parsley, mint and thyme all add distinctive flavor. Remove the stems and roll large leafy herbs such as mint or basil into a cigarlike shape and chiffonade it by cutting the roll crosswise into thin strips. Roughly chop smaller-leaved herbs such as parsley or thyme with a sharp knife. Sprinkle fresh herbs over the hot roasted eggplant slices.
- Drizzle the slices with a good-quality vinegar such as balsamic, red wine or champagne to add a bright, tangy acidity that contrasts with the creamy richness of the eggplant.
- Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top of the roasted slices. Feta, ricotta salata, Parmesan or Romano all add a punch of flavor.