File this away under “good to know” kitchen tips. Recently, I made a cooked salad that required fried eggplant cubes. I don’t like frying eggplant. It soaks up oil like a sponge, which means you end up using a lot more oil than you would normally need for other vegetables. The frying process can also be somewhat messy. I decided to roast the cubed eggplant instead, tossing it with a little olive oil and putting it in a hot oven till tender. The results were spectacular. I love roasting other vegetables like cauliflower and beets, so naturally eggplant works the same way. The eggplant developed a natural sweetness in the oven, a depth of flavor I’ve never achieved from frying. Some pieces caramelized on the edges, adding extra flavor. I ate it up like finger food; all it needed was a little salt to offset the sweetness. Of course, you can add black pepper or any number of seasonings during the roasting process to give it a different flavor.
I can imagine all kinds of uses for these delectable cubes of roasted eggplant. So far, I’ve tried substituting it for fried eggplant in cooked salads (like Mooshi’s Eggplant Salad), which works great. I’ve added it to a cold mixed green salad; it makes the salad more filling without adding a lot of calories. I’ve simmered it for a few minutes in curry sauce and served it as a vegetarian entree. I’ve also used it as a pasta substitute. Top the eggplant with marinara or bolognese sauce for a lower carb, gluten free, more nutritious alternative to pasta. My husband likes his topped with a little Greek yogurt, labneh, or tahini sauce. You can also roast eggplant rounds, like I do in this recipe for Vegetable Moussaka. The possibilities are endless!
If you want to roast eggplant for a dip like babaganoush, the process is different. Click here for a complete tutorial.
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- Peel the eggplant. You can either peel it completely, or leave a few strips of skin on for texture. If you're planning on eating them as-is or using them as a meat or pasta substitute, peel them completely. If you're simmering them in sauce or adding them to a cooked salad, leave a few strips of skin on to help the eggplant keep its shape during cooking.
- Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.
- Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt, tossing the pieces with your hands as you sprinkle to make sure all the pieces are evenly coated. Allow the eggplant to stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes till beads of liquid form on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and pat dry. This salting process helps to remove any bitterness from the eggplant.
- Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Spread out the eggplant cubes on a baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with olive oil and use clean hands to toss the cubes, coating them lightly with oil. Sprinkle the cubes lightly with salt (if you're salt-sensitive, skip this step... the eggplant will already be slightly salty from the pre-salting process). You can also sprinkle them with pepper or your favorite seasoning. Black pepper, red chili flakes, paprika, lemon pepper and curry powder all add a nice flavor... just be sure to season lightly so you don't overpower the natural flavor of the eggplant.
- Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Let the eggplant roast for 10 minutes. Take the eggplant out and stir it with a spatula or wooden spoon. Return it to the oven. (Note-- if you have doubled the recipe and are roasting two batches of eggplant on two sheets, switch the sheets between racks at this point). Let it roast for 10-20 minutes longer till the eggplant is tender and some of the pieces are caramelized.
- Remove the eggplant from the oven. Serve warm or at room temperature, or add it to your favorite eggplant recipe. The eggplant is particularly delicious when simmered for a few minutes in your favorite warm sauce (tomato sauce, curry, etc.). Or, you can snack on it plain, like I do... simple, with a touch of salt. Makes a tasty finger food! I also love it drizzled with a little tahini sauce. Yum!