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The Best and Sexiest Eggplant Recipe for Summer


A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we’re guessing you have those covered. This week, guest columnist, food stylist, and James Beard Award–nominated author Rebekah Peppler is sharing your new favorite way to cook eggplant, fresh from À Table, her just-released cookbook.

Vacation cooking hits different. It prioritizes pleasure. It is imaginative, free to change at a
moment’s notice, often bursting with produce and ingredients that might not make it onto
your everyday cutting board.

Despite the fact that I cook and eat for a living, I happily spend an ample share of my holidays seeking out local markets and farm stands, navigating the inevitable
quirks of a rental kitchen, and, most importantly, gathering people I love around a table that we get to call our own for a short while.

This recipe for eggplant confit is a product of one such food-forward holiday—and it was so
well received, I immediately made room for it in my new cookbook, À Table.

Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Andrea Foti. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

Two years ago, I was in full development and testing mode for À Table, and had planned a summer trip from Paris to the south of France with friends. While the pretext was to celebrate a birthday, I knew I would be the friend setting food on the table and only half-jokingly asking for detailed feedback.

To prepare for the trip, I packed my market bag and mapped out the best marchés in the region. I made a vague wish list of in-season ingredients. I added my scale, measuring spoons, wine key, and a sharp knife to my suitcase. (Always bring your own knife; one slip of a dull blade can quickly ruin an otherwise fun weekend away.)

When we got to Provence I allowed my vacation brain to lead and, at one of those
aforementioned marchés, it led me directly to the overflowing box of glossy-skinned, heavy-in-hand, far-sexier-than-the-eggplant-emoji aubergines. Suffice it to say, I grabbed as many as I could fit in my straw tote and ended up with extra.

Eggplant confit employs a traditional French cooking and preservation method. Confit, or
slowly cooking something at a low temperature in fat (or a concentrated sugar syrup), comes
from the French verb confire, meaning “to preserve.” While duck confit may immediately come to
mind, confit refers to many a preserved food—meat or vegetable (both cooked in fat), or fruit
(cooked in sugar).

Applying this straightforward technique to eggplant transforms it into tender,
creamy, addictive slices—and garners a windfall of hyper-flavorful olive oil in the process. And
for all this luxury, you need very few ingredients: eggplant, a few garlic cloves, anchovies,
thyme, plenty of olive oil, pepper, and salt.

The eggplant confit slices are ideal served as a side, spread on crusty bread, or chopped up and strewn over hummus or labneh as a simple snack. But the recipe’s rich, savory, garlic-thyme-umami-laced by-product might just be my favorite part—sometimes I make this dish just to get the oil. Whisk it into vinaigrettes, use it to fry glorious eggs, dip bread in it, drizzle it with a heavy hand over pasta or sliced tomatoes or roasted vegetables; the list goes on.

But my favorite way to use the infused confit oil—and what I did on that particular trip—is to put it toward another eggplant and a few additional assorted nightshades to make ratatouille. The resulting dish is deeply flavored and, I’m not going to lie, the moment I tasted it, I wished I had accidentally bought even more of those sexy Provençal eggplants.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Which summer vegetables are you looking forward to preserving? Let us know in the comments!

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