Normally as summer winds down I start to hoard summer vegetables.
Cucumbers get pickled, tomatoes get stewed (for beautiful things like creamy tomato soup in the middle of winter), and zucchinis get baked. (By the way, while I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate zucchini cake I linked to, I’ve found that in general, baked goods with zucchini freeze pretty well if wrapped tightly.)
With the weather being so different here in Kuwait than it is in New York, I’m not sure how long we’ll have access to fresh summer veggies. I guess I’ll wait and see!
Instead of hoarding summer’s bounty for later, I’m trying to make the most of it now with simple dishes like this that really celebrate the last of summer’s sweetness in vegetable form.
If you’re not usually a fan of eggplant, I recommend trying the salt method I give instructions on below (it’s the method I give in my cookbook!). The eggplant gets a little time alone with some salt before cooking, which helps to draw out the bitterness, and then the excess salt is rinsed off before cooking. If you’re really averse to the bitterness in eggplant, you can take this one step further and peel your eggplant before you salt it, but I find that the salt method is enough for me, especially using baby eggplant, which are usually much less bitter to begin with.
What’s your favorite way to savor the last flavors of summer?
- 2 lbs (about 1 kg) baby eggplant, ends trimmed and halved
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- 4 tablespoons halved almonds, toasted
- 1 small handful fresh mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Place the eggplant in a colander in the sink and season generously with salt; let the eggplant sit like this for 30 minutes.
- Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato, sea salt, smoked paprika, cumin, and black pepper, and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and water, and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
- When the eggplant is done with its salt marinade, rinse each piece off and gently wring out the excess water.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large baking sheet. Toss the eggplant in the oil to coat and then arrange the pieces in a single layer cut side down. Bake the eggplant until tender and starting to turn golden, about 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through. To get a little more color on the eggplant, run it briefly under the broiler when it’s done baking (stay with it because it can burn quickly).
- To serve, arrange the eggplant on a platter; spoon the sauce on top (re-heat the sauce if you want), and sprinkle on the toasted almonds and fresh mint. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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