Years ago, on a rainy Georgia night—after I picked a mother lode of eggplants from my garden—I set out to make the perfect side dish. Since eggplant is such a sponge, I wanted to see how little oil I could use. I cubed a large globe eggplant and cooked it until tender and lightly seared around the edges with just a couple tablespoons of good-quality olive oil. Then, I added fresh herbs, chopped garlic for a bite, and few passes of Parmesan on a cheese grater for a bump-up in flavor. This eggplant side dish is a summer stand-by for me.
My cooking philosophy is to use fresh, seasonal ingredients and alter them as little as possible so that its flavor shines through. This recipe does just that—it celebrates in-season eggplant by cooking it simply and with few ingredients and not a lot of oil.
To Salt or Not to Salt Eggplants
Eggplants are notorious for soaking up cooking oil due to their sponge-like texture. So the question is whether or not to salt them—a technique that draws out the moisture and renders the eggplant less sponge-like. Once upon a time, eggplants were more bitter than the ones we generally find at the market today. I quit salting eggplant years ago. I don’t want the additional salt in my diet—or the extra 30 or so minutes wait time.
Types of Eggplant to Use
With a few exceptions, you can use any type of eggplant for this recipe. Keep in mind that some of them might be too bitter for this specific preparation. If you're not sure, I recommend a test run—cook a slice and taste it before you commit to the entire dish. Use it to make Eggplant Parm instead.
Globe eggplants are widely sold in grocery stores. It is long, bell-shaped, and dark purple. That’s what I used for this recipe. In the peak of summer, farmers markets may carry countless varieties—vividly violet, skinny, and curved Japanese and Chinese eggplants; striped purple and white Sicilian eggplants; creamy white teardrop-shaped eggplants; small green Thai eggplants; and nearly black Indian eggplants the size of a chicken egg. All of these are delicious and I'd recommend trying out the recipe with them.
Look for firm, heavy eggplants with smooth, taut skin regardless of size or color.
This is an umami-rich side dish for pork chops, lamb chops, or roast chicken. Want to keep it super easy? Try pairing it with Italian sausages cooked in a skillet, hearty country bread, and a simple green salad.
Lean Into Eggplant Season
Sautéed Eggplant with Garlic and Parmesan
Fresh bay leaves, sold in plastic clamshells, are available in the produce department. They are an absolute revelation. Sure, they may dry out a bit by the time you finish the whole package, but I guarantee they are more flavorful than the jar that’s been in your pantry—perhaps for 10 years.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large (about 1 pound) eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
2 fresh bay leaves (see Recipe Note)
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, basil, or chives
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Cook the eggplant:
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the eggplant in an even layer and season with the black pepper, bay leaves, and Aleppo pepper, but not the salt.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and gently, until the eggplant is tender and golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. If you stir too often or too aggressively the eggplant will break down into a purée. You want the eggplant to hold its shape as much as possible.
Finish cooking and serve:
Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, chopped parsley, and salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning with more salt and black pepper. Bon appetit, y’all!
Leftovers will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It will soften as it sits, transforming into a great cold spread for sandwiches or chunky dip for pita chips.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 12g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||26%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|