Three-Speed Dinners: Eggplant Excellence

Meatless recipes featuring this favorite summer vegetable and big, bold flavors from Italy and Morocco.
Published November 13, 2015

We're not vegetarians. We did write a whole book about ham, after all. But we do like to keep things lighter when the weather turns hot.

To that end, there may be no better substitute for meat than eggplant. It makes a hearty, filling meal full of summery flavor. Millions of Italians can't be wrong!

Sure, eggplants are around all year long, but in summer they're at their best—earthy and sweet. Now is the right time take advantage of the full palette the vegetable affords. To do that, we've created these three easy recipes: quick, simple panini, a stuffed eggplant dish that's good enough for company, and an easy pasta puttanesca casserole prepared in the slow cooker while you enjoy the long light and the warm days.

None of these recipes work well with long, skinny Japanese eggplants. Rather, we're looking for the more traditional, bulbous, purple, Italian ones. Make sure the vegetable feels firm, not spongy, and that the stem shows no sign of rot. If possible, use the eggplant the day you buy it, rather than letting it chill down in the fridge and lose some of its characteristic flavor.

So here's to the height of summer, three vegetarian dishes that make the most of the fresh produce while it's in abundance. We have all winter to look forward to ham.

About the 20-Minute Eggplant Panini 
These almost-irresistible pressed sandwiches are perfect for summer, making good use of fresh tomatoes and basil to set off grilled eggplant. 
Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe

About the 40-Minute Moroccan-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant 
These stuffed eggplant "shells" couldn't be easier—mostly thanks to the microwave! By microwaving the filling and the shells for a few minutes, we get a leg up on the time in the oven and can get dinner on the table much more quickly. One tip: jarred minced ginger is available in the produce section of almost every supermarket. 
Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe

About the All-Day (Slow Cooker) Eggplant Pasta Puttanesca Casserole 
Well, it's not quite "all-day." This is summer, after all. But here's a great way to keep the heat out of your kitchen: a satisfying, vegetarian pasta casserole from the slow cooker that's perfect for the deck. By stirring the mixture once during cooking, we can keep the pasta al dente and more evenly tender. 
Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe