Three Easy Vegetarian Loaded Baked Aubergine (Eggplant) Recipes

It’s coming into aubergine (or eggplant, if you’re American and WRONG) season here in Ticino – at least I assume so, as they always seem to be on special offer at the moment. This is fantastic news for me. Cooked right, aubergines are one of the most delicious and versatile vegetables around.

Unfortunately, cooking them ‘right’ often entails using a great deal of oil. This is part of the reason I started preparing them as below; the baking requires virtually zero oil, but results in a perfectly textured aubergine which acts as a vehicle for all manner of flavours – like a baked potato, but lower carb and more impressive. It’s also extremely easy – just halve, score, and shove in the oven, then keep refrigerated to be rebaked with your chosen topping. The perfect healthy lunch solution.

The world is your oyster when it comes to toppings, but I’ve listed three that I love: one vegan Asian-inspired miso-sesame with tofu; one Middle Eastern-inspired harissa, tahini, feta and crispy chickpeas; and finally, an Italian take, with pesto, mozzarella, and pine nuts. I served each with some spin on green vegetables, details listed below.

As ever, these recipes make zero claims to authenticity and I apologise in advance if they contravene any sacred food laws.

Each recipe serves one – they’re intended to cover one half of the aubergine.

The baked aubergine base of each recipe:

Ingredients

1 medium aubergine
Neutral oil for the roasting tin

Method

1- Preheat oven to fan 180ºc.

2- Halve the aubergines vertically, keeping the stem on, and score diamonds into the flesh, as below.

3- Place in oiled baking dish and in the oven for 45 minutes, checking occasionally that nothing catastrophic has occurred. Either immediately proceed to the topping stage or Tupperware it up to be re-roasted later (that’s what makes this such an easy lunch idea) – it will keep for several days.

Three days post-roasting and looking good!

Topping 1: Miso & Sesame Glazed Aubergine with Tofu and Spring Onions, with sesame dressed salad leaves

Ingredients

For the tofu:
100g hard tofu, cubed
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder

For the glazed aubergine:
1/2 baked aubergine, as above
1 tsp miso paste
1 1/2 tsp mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
Trimmed spring onions, to top (optional)
Sesame seeds, to top (optional)

For the sesame salad:
1 tbsp tahini / sesame paste
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp miso paste
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp grated ginger
Mixed salad leaves (I used a random cheap Aldi pre-mix)
1/2 avocado, chopped

Method

1- Turn oven on to fan 180ºc.

2- Place 1/2 baked aubergine in baking dish. Mix together the mirin, miso, grated ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce and pour over the aubergine. Place in the oven for ca. 15 minutes.

3- Mix the cubed tofu with the sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic powder, and fry in a non-stick frying pan, turning frequently so that all sides are cooked. Remove from heat but keep in pan to keep warm.

4- If making the additional sesame salad dressing, mix together the dressing ingredients until emulsified – feel free to alter according to your taste, e.g. more mirin for sweetness, more tahini to thicken, or more water / vinegar to thin. Mix the appropriate amount (this recipe will likely make too much but keep it for other stuff) over the salad and stir together.

Please also take a moment to appreciate the patience it took for me to methodically measure these ingredients out hahaha.

5- Artfully place the recooked aubergine atop the salad, possibly drizzle over some remaining dressing (clearly I love a tahini drizzle), trim over spring onions and throw on some sesame seeds. Top off with the tofu. Bone app the teeth!

I actually served this one atop courgetti with bok choy, but you get the point…

Topping 2: Harissa Roasted Aubergine with Crispy Paprika Chickpeas, Feta, and Tahini Lemon Sauce

My addiction to tahini is perhaps evident at this point. I put the stuff on virtually everything.

The crispy chickpea recipe makes more than necessary for this recipe, but they keep for ages in a sealed bag / jar (refrigeration not necessary) and they’re a great complement to any a dish, or eaten as a snack. The quantity is simply a function of the weight of the leftover chickpeas I had on hand, so feel free to make more or less and adjust ratios. You can also skip making them as it’s somewhat time consuming and top with mixed seeds or za’atar instead, but if you do want to, make them in advance.

I served this with a simple salad of quinoa and leaves dressed with excess tahini sauce.

Ingredients

For the aubergine:
1/2 baked aubergine (as above)
1 tsp harissa
30g feta, crumbled
1 lemon, juiced
1 1/2 tbsp tahini paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt, to taste

For the crispy chickpeas:
120g chickpeas, drained and patted dry
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Salt, to taste

Method

For the chickpeas:


1- Preheat oven to fan 200ºc.

2- Drain and pat dry chickpeas, place in a roasting tin, pour over oil, spices and salt and mix together.

3- Place in oven, stirring occasionally, until popped and golden, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool then store in a jar in a cool dark place. I put these on all manner of salad and they’re also great as a snack!

For the aubergine:

Much simpler than making the chickpeas!

1- Preheat oven to fan 180ºc.

2- Spread 1 tsp of harissa across the pre-cooked aubergine half and place in oven for ca. 10 minutes.

3- Mix together lemon juice, tahini, cumin, and salt to make the tahini sauce while the aubergine re-cooks.

4- Remove aubergine from oven, place on a bed of salad (or grains, or both, whatever you wish really), sprinkle over feta, tahini sauce, and a handful of crispy chickpeas. Bone apple teeth!

Topping 3: Basil Pesto, Mozzarella, and Pine Nut Aubergine

I served this with leftover balsamic-dressed rucola (rocket) salad with butter beans and cherry tomatoes. Think of this as an easy and healthy substitute for melanzane alla parmigiana.

Buffalo mozzarella is the best in my opinion but fior di latte works too.

Ingredients

1/2 baked aubergine (as above)
1 tsp basil pesto
40g soft mozzarella, sliced
1 tsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp pine nuts

Method

1- Preheat oven to fan 200ºc.

2- Place half aubergine in a baking dish, spread over pesto, top with slices of mozzarella (like you’d see on a pizza), and finally grate over some parmesan. Place in oven for ca. 15 minutes (until the mozzarella is turning golden).

3- Toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat.

4- Remove from oven, lay on top of your chosen base (salad / pasta / grains / whatever), sprinkle over pine nuts, and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions / Swaps / Tips

I think I’ve been fairly detailed on the serving suggestions throughout, so we’ll skip that. I will say, however, that the world is your oyster when it comes to toppings. Goats cheese and honey baked onto an aubergine would nice, for example! I actually took a half aubergine on a hike for lunch the other day, topped with burrata – by the time of consumption it looked dreadful but still tasted great and provided excellent sustenance to this weary traveller.

Leftover rating: 3/3 pre-topping, less great thereafter but I personally only ever make what I require immediately.

Enjoy, and I’ll try to keep momentum on posting with delicious spring produce!

-Alice

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