Have you ever thought of steaming eggplant? I never had, and I was superskeptical when a recipe came in for testing—but because it was from master chef Joël Robuchon, I was also intrigued. (How can you not believe the man who basically reinvented mashed potatoes simply by adding much more butter?) Before this recipe, I had tried all sorts of tricks to avoid using as much oil as eggplant really wants to soak up before it becomes superdelicious—salting it for hours, sautéing it in moderate amounts in a nonstick skillet, or grilling, roasting or broiling it with just a delicate slick of oil on each side. It was never as silky, sweet and creamy as when it's fried right—until we steamed it! When I revisited this recipe, I was surprised that Robuchon didn't even call for salting the eggplant before cooking. (Out of habit, I always salt large eggplants to release the bitter juices.)
If you love eggplant, try Robuchon’s recipe—and then make this easy method your own. You can fold in chopped tomatoes and cilantro to make a simple salad, or you can add diced piquillo peppers if you can't imagine enjoying eggplant without a smoky flavor. Puree it with yogurt and spices, or fold in tomatoes, feta and olives for a light creamy dip or a great crostini topping. The steamed cubes may not be as pretty as when they're perfectly fried, but steaming will reveal a host of subtle qualities you might have missed in this vegetable before.
Here's the recipe for Robuchon's Eggplant Compote.