Out of all the vegetables, eggplant is my absolute favorite. Full stop. This is not surprising once you take into account that I grew up in Turkey with a grandmother who made incredible eggplant dishes at least once a week. She would roast them on the gas range, fry them for kızartma, dice them to use in türlü, bake them for karnıyarık... she just knew how to make the most of it. Perhaps her best recipe for it is the Turkish roasted eggplant dip which I usually just ate spoonfuls of without necessarily dipping anything into.
In fact, in Turkey, many people with health issues or those who are simply dieting stop eating eggplant altogether, stamping it "unhealthy" for some reason. While I couldn't find the source of this misconception, I do have a theory. It has to be that Turkish people enjoy eating eggplant so much that they assume it can't possibly taste that good and be healthy. I see no other plausible explanation. So why doesn't the humble eggplant get the love it deserves here in the U.S.? Not sure. Let's change that.
How to Pick the Perfect Eggplants for Turkish Roasted Eggplant Dip
Eggplants commonly cultivated in Asia and Europe are quite different than what I find here in California. Here, there are mostly large varieties that are quite thick in the middle (globe). If you have access to them, get the Italian eggplants. Otherwise, pick from Japanese, Chinese, or globe (shown below) varieties will work as well.
When it comes to picking eggplants within a variety at the market, look for the following:
- feels heavy for its size
How to Roast Eggplants for Turkish Roasted Eggplant Dip
It baffles me how something can taste so bitter when raw, and magically transform into a delicious meal after an encounter with heat. Same can be said for potatoes, so I guess the most delicious of vegetables usually do require flames to shine through. This makes me feel bad for early homo sapiens.
Here is how my grandma roasts eggplants that turn out perfect every single time:
Step 1: Pierce the eggplants.
This step is crucial. If skipped, you may end up with a big mess and even get hurt if you are too close to the crime scene, aka. an explosion on the stove.
Step 2: Roast directly on the gas range or...
This can get messy. You have a few options here:
- Roast directly on the range
- Use aluminum foil around the range
- Use a cooling rack with or without the foil (this is mainly to help you turn the eggplant around easily)
- Use a grill pan (marginally easier clean-up)
- Roast in the oven (this will not taste the same without the char an open flame provides you, but clean-up is easier)
Here I chose to do it directly on the range with a cooling rack for easier turning. On low-medium heat, leave the pierced eggplants on for 20+ minutes, turning every 5-7 minutes.
Step 3: Roast a little more.
When you are sure the eggplants are done and roasted, roast some more. Say, 5-10 minutes extra. Trust me on this one, I cut open "perfectly roasted" eggplants only to find some firm and bitter bitter bits too many times to make that mistake again. Only take them off the range once they are collapsing and very tender.
(Optional) Step 4: Put the eggplants in an airtight container or Ziploc right away.
This will help you peel the eggplant easier. I usually don't do this myself because I love the taste that some charred skin brings. However, if you're not as excited to be ingesting carcinogens as I am, then this will help you.
Step 5: Peel it.
Transfer the eggplants onto a cutting board. Peel the super-tender eggplants and discard the charred skin bits.
If there is a lot of juice, you can choose to save it for the dip recipe or drain it. Make sure to taste it first to see if this juice is bitter, which it usually isn't, but you made all this effort already and why throw it out the window?
Step 6: Use it for Turkish Roasted Eggplant Dip or save it for later.
I usually use it immediately in the following dip recipe, but if you are short on time and want to save it for later, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to four days.Print