Trying to figure out a simple recipe to use up lots of eggplants? Our 5-ingredient pan-roasted eggplant, pine nuts, and feta with pomegranate syrup might be the most delicious (and simple) eggplant recipe you’ve ever eaten!
In late summer, we always end up with a lot of excess produce from our garden. On our sister site, GrowJourney, we’ve written some good recipe roundups/lists for what to do when you have lots of extra peppers and tomatoes:
But what about the third member of the late summer abundance trifecta: eggplants? What’s a simple recipe to use up lots of eggplants?
You can always bake and freeze a bunch of eggplant parmesan for later months (yep, we do that too). However, sometimes we want to put a pile of eggplants to their highest and best use for eating right now — without making anything too complicated or too time-consuming.
What to do?
Our favorite recipe to use up lots of eggplants
In this article we’re going to show you exactly how to make our favorite eggplant recipe when we want to eat them same-day. Here’s why we think you’ll love it too:
- It only uses five ingredients (simple).
- After prep, it only takes about 30 minutes to cook (that’s practically fast food in our world).
- It turns a lot of eggplants into a delicious, wholesome meal.
Even if you or someone you’re cooking for “doesn’t like eggplants,” we bet this recipe will be a hit!
Here are a few key tips you need to follow to get this recipe right:
1. Cut your eggplants into cubes.
The first thing you’ll need to do is cut your eggplant into smaller cubes — no smaller than 1/2″ and no larger than 1″.
We’ve been playing with this recipe for years, and have found this size range to be ideal for this recipe on final texture and bite size.
Should you peel your eggplant? If the texture of eggplant skins bothers you, peel them before cubing. The edible skins on fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins and fiber, so we prefer to leave ours on.
2. Salt and rinse your eggplants BEFORE cooking.
Want the single best tip for cooking any eggplant dish? Here it is: salt your eggplant before cooking them.
Why salt your eggplants? Benefits:
- remove water and any bitter flavors before you cook them,
- makes the final eggplant taste creamier and richer,
- giving them a better cooked texture.
If you’ve ever wondered why your fried eggplant or eggplant parm is always soggy, the reason is because you didn’t salt the cut eggplants before cooking them so they cooked in their own water.
Here’s how to salt your eggplants for this recipe:
a. Put the cut eggplant cubes into a bowl.
b. Add a little less than 1 tbsp of salt (we prefer pink Himalayan salt) and mix it into the eggplant cubes by hand or with a spoon to ensure even coverage. (Don’t worry, the vast majority of the salt will be rinsed off at the end, so the final dish isn’t too salty.)
c. Pour the salted eggplant into a metal strainer and either: a) put the strainer in your sink, or b) put the strainer over the top of a large bowl. This way, the eggplants at the bottom don’t steep in the salty water drawn out of the eggplants on top.
d. Let the salted eggplants sit for 45 minutes. Then give them a fast rinse in cold water to remove the salt. For this recipe, you don’t have to worry about patting them dry since the remaining water will evaporate while cooking. However, for baked dishes like eggplant parm, you’d definitely want to pay the eggplant dry before baking.
3. Use proper pans.
Every type of pan cooks a bit differently. We’ve cooked with pretty much every type of pan over the years and by far our favorite is antique smooth-surfaced cast iron pans. If you can get your hands on some, do it.
Le Creuset or other enameled pans work great too. Avoid teflon if at all possible.
While using something other than cast iron when making this recipe will still produce a delicious final recipe, cooking times may vary slightly due to cast iron’s unique heating properties.
Your eggplants are done when the largest pieces are lightly browned on the outside, tender yet slightly firm on the inside.
4. Toast your pine nuts.
Toasting your pine nuts enhances their flavor. It’s also very easy to do.
Once you get your eggplants cooking, start toasting your pine nuts in a separate pan on medium low heat (3.5 on our stove). All you need is a small pan (we used a 5.5″ cast iron) and a bit of patience.
Shake the pan and stir the pine nuts every 30-60 seconds or so to ensure they don’t blacken on one side. You want them slightly browned, which should take about 15 minutes.
5. Use pomegranate syrup/molasses.
If you’ve never had it before, pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses) is a traditional Mediterranean ingredient made from boiled down pomegranate juice with a sweetener (such as sugar or dates). It is absolutely delicious – rich, sweet, and tangy pomegranate flavor magnified 10-fold.
Pomegranate molasses is critical to making this recipe true to our version. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, the closest thing we can recommend is using regular sugar cane molasses + lemon juice, but it just won’t be quite the same as real pomegranate molasses.
We grow pomegranates, but not in enough quantity to make our own pomegranate molasses, so this is an ingredient we buy. Here’s a really good organic pomegranate molasses that has a squeeze top making it easy to drizzle as a garnish or into tablespoons without getting the lid or bottle sticky.
Two tablespoons of pom molasses are mixed into the cooked eggplants after it’s off the stove and more is drizzled over the top as a garnish when plating.
6. Optional sixth ingredient: red sumac.
Another famous Mediterranean flavoring is sumac, which is one of the key ingredients in the herb mix za’atar. However, sumac is a delightful flavoring in its own right.
Red sumac offers a lemon-like tang and a gorgeous bright red color. Along with pomegranate molasses, it makes a perfect garnish for this dish. You can also forage your own native North American sumacs (only the ones with red berries NOT the white ones which are poisonous) to make your own sumac spice/flavoring.
Ok, let’s get cooking!
Recipe: Pan-roasted eggplant, pine nuts & feta with pomegranate syrup
Pan-roasted eggplant, pine nuts & feta with pomegranate syrup
A simple, delicious Mediterranean-inspired eggplant dish. Perfect as a vegetarian appetizer or stand-alone meal!
- 5 cups eggplants, measured after chopping into 1/2 - 1" cubes
- 3/4 tbsp Himalayan pink sea salt (for salting eggplants)
- 1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly crumbled organic feta cheese
- 3 tbsp organic pomegranate molasses (2 tbsp mixed into cooked eggplant and 1 tbsp drizzled on top when serving)
- pinch red sumac powder (optional)
Chop eggplants into 1/2 - 1" cubes, put them in a bowl, add salt, and stir until evenly coated with salt. Pour salted eggplants into a strainer, then place strainer in sink or over top of larger bowl to allow water to drain out. Let sit for 45 minutes to draw water out. After 45 minutes, quickly but thoroughly rinse eggplants to remove salt from surface area.
Heat large skillet (ideally cast iron) to medium low heat (4 on our stove). (For reference, we used a 10" cast iron.) Once pan is hot, add extra virgin olive oil and eggplant cubes. Cook eggplant cubes for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking and scalding. Eggplant pieces should be lightly browned on all sides and soft yet slightly firm.
A few minutes after eggplants have started cooking... In separate pan (we used a 5.5" cast iron), toast 1/3 cup pine nuts on medium-low heat (3.5 on our stove) for about 15 minutes, tossing/stirring every 30 seconds or so to prevent nuts from burning. You want the pine nuts lightly browned, not blackened.
Remove cooked eggplants and pine nuts from heat and let them cool about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add feta cheese + 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses and stir to incorporate.
Plate the dish. Garnish with another tablespoon of pomegranate molasses and red sumac (optional).
This recipe is designed to be versatile; you can use it as an appetizer or a full meal. If you’re aiming for a full meal, we’d advise using the eggplant as a stuffing in a pita wrap. Or if you want to bump up the protein levels beyond what the feta cheese and pine nuts provide, add some poached duck eggs (or chicken eggs) on top.
If you’re like us, you’ll start looking forward to having a giant pile of garden-fresh eggplants to use up because this recipe is so dang good. We hope you love it as much as we do!
Other savory recipes you’ll love:
- Stinging nettle quiche
- Bicolor bolete (or other wild mushroom) pâté
- Purple kale pesto with Meyer lemons
- Savory garden green crepes
- Malabar spinach groundnut stew (maafe)