How to Cook Eggplant Three Ways

Every good eggplant recipe starts with a sprinkling of salt.
eggplant osso buco

eggplant osso buco

Photo by: Image courtesy of Four Seasons Resort/The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Image courtesy of Four Seasons Resort/The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

A sprig of flowering oregano makes a gorgeous garnish on this eggplant "osso buco." 

"All eggplant varieties have their perfect place in cooking," says Tucker Yoder, executive chef of Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia. "Italian eggplant does well with eggplant purees and eggplant Parmesan. Asian eggplant does well thinly sliced and grilled or marinated." 

Whether you smoke, char, grill or roast eggplant—Yoder even dehydrates them to make eggplant chips—it's important to start with salt. "Cut the eggplant however you plan to use it and give it a generous sprinkling of salt to let it draw out some of the moisture," Yoder says. "I find that very fresh eggplant seems to be less bitter." 

Yoder's recipe below for Eggplant with Quinoa and Lamb's Quarters features the versatile vegetable pureed, marinated and caramelized. At Wildwood Kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland, chef Brian McBride makes it into a jam he pairs with grilled Maine scallops and sundried tomatoes. And at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, executive chef Alessandro Cartumini makes an eggplant "osso buco" as a hearty vegetarian dish. "It's a flavorful alternative to a steak or juicy piece of fish," Cartumini says. "What I love about cooking eggplant this way is that all the flavors are retained."

Eggplant with Quinoa and Lamb's Quarters

Courtesy of Tucker Yoder, executive chef, Clifton Inn

Yield: 6 servings

Eggplant puree

  • 2 eggplant, large
  • 1-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

On a skillet, burn eggplant until black and cooked through. Puree in blender at high speed until smooth, adding water as necessary. Season puree with lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Marinated eggplant

  • 3 Turkish orange eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut thick slices of eggplant. Generously season eggplant with salt and pepper. Marinate sliced in balsamic and oil for a couple hours till ready to use. 

Caramelized eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplant
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry whole eggplant briefly so skin lightly blisters, 30-45 seconds. Gently peel skin from eggplant. Slice eggplant in quarters lengthwise. Heat sauté pan very hot but not yet smoking. Add a small amount of oil. Place eggplant slices in pan and quickly caramelize on one side. Add mirin and rice vinegar and remove from heat but keep in a warm place. 

Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste

Bring salted water to a boil. Add quinoa and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and cool. 

Final assembly:

  • 1 tablespoon eggplant puree
  • 2 slices Turkish orange eggplant
  • 1 piece caramelized eggplant
  • 3 tablespoons quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon basil
  • 1 cup lamb's quarters
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Reserve liquid from caramelized eggplant. Place eggplant puree on plate and smear to create one long streak. Toss quinoa with fresh oregano leaves, lemon basil, oil and reserved liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle quinoa on plate. Warm caramelized eggplant pieces gently. Grill marinated eggplant pieces till cooked through, slice and return to marinade. Arrange marinated eggplant pieces on top of quinoa. Arrage caramelized eggplant piece across dish and garnish with lamb's quarters. 

Grilled Maine Scallops with Eggplant Jam, Sundried tomatoes and Broken Balsamic Vinaigrette

Courtesy of chef Brian McBride, Wildwood Kitchen

Yield: 4 appetizer-sized portions

  • 1 pound large scallops [approximately 8 – 10]
  • 5 ounces olive oil
  • 3 artichoke bottoms, julienned
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, julienned and packed in olive oil
  • 2 ounces balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 cup eggplant jam*
  • 1 teaspoon chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Eggplant Jam

  • ¼ cup pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauté pan with a heavy bottom, warm olive oil over medium heat, add pancetta and sweat until some of the fat renders out. Add all other ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until mixture becomes dry, about 30 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until smooth. Cool and refrigerate until needed.

Final assembly

Set grill on high and place scallops in a small bowl. Add one ounce of olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Place scallops on grill and cook medium rare turning once. Set aside to keep warm.

In a sauté pan, heat two ounces of olive oil over medium heat and sauté artichoke, garlic and tomatoes until cooked through, about three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate small pan, warm eggplant jam. Place jam on bottom of plate. Next, place two scallops on each plate and spoon artichoke mix over scallops; then drizzle the vinaigrette mixture from the pan over the artichoke mix. Garnish with chives and serve.

Eggplant “Osso Buco” with Mushroom Bolognese


Courtesy of Alessandro Cartumini, executive chef, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled
  • Peel of one lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 whole garlic clove
  • 1 small shallot, julienned
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 hearts of palm, each approximately 4 inches long

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Cut eggplant in four and cut into round pieces, each about 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. 

Place the eggplant in a Ziploc bag with lemon, thyme, garlic, shallots, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove all the air from the bag and seal it. Place bag in boiling salted water and cook for about 15 minutes, until eggplant is soft. 

Heat remaining olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Remove eggplant from the bag and sear for 3 minutes on each side. Add hearts of palm and cook until roasted, then remove from the pan. 

Place the hearts of palm on one side of the eggplant to resemble the bone of the osso buco. 

Mushroom Bolognese

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 cup assorted mushrooms, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • ½ cup plum tomatoes, blended until smooth
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • ½ bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh tarragon
  • Salt

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add carrot and onion, cook for three minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 

Add blended tomatoes, vegetable sock and bay leaf. Cook until reduced by half, then add tarragon. Season to taste with salt and set aside. 

Green Farro

  • 1 cup green farro
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon harissa spice mix
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt

Place all ingredients, except for olive oil and salt, in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, until the farro is soft to the tooth. Remove from the pan and stir in the olive oil and salt. Set aside. 

Garnish

  • 4 each assorted summer squashes and blossoms
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, julienned
  • 4 sprigs flowering oregano
  • Salt to taste

Cut squash into small rounds and wedges. Heat olive oil in a saucepan, add squash, shallot and oregano and cook until squash starts to soften. 

Remove from heat and season with salt. 

Plate farro and top with the eggplant "osso buco" and a dollop of the mushroom Bolognese. Garnish with the squashes and blossoms. Place a sprig of flowering oregano on top. 

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