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Easy dinner recipes: Go crazy (and gluten-free) with eggplant

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Often thought of as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit (it's a berry -- a very large berry). Like the tomato, also a fruit and fellow member of the nightshade family, eggplant lends itself to a variety of savory preparations. Grill or roast it, steam or deep-fry, boil or saute -- this hearty fruit cooks up quickly and plays well with a variety of flavors.

Grilled eggplant with anchovies, garlic and rosemary: Stud thick slices of eggplant with slivers of garlic, tufts of rosemary and a little anchovy and grill. The flavors marry beautifully over the heat of the grill, and the dish works well as a main or side. Best of all? You can assemble ahead of time and grill when ready. Start to finish, the recipe comes together in 45 minutes.

Grilled eggplant with red and yellow peppers: For a colorful dish that gets you cooking outdoors, brush thick slices of eggplant with olive oil and throw them on the grill, topping with slow-roasted red and yellow peppers to add color and sweet dimension.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Kuzina's butterflied roasted eggplant salad: Or roast a whole eggplant on the grill or stovetop until charred on the outside and buttery soft inside. Butterfly the eggplant and stuff with a colorful salad of fresh herbs, feta cheese and tomato drizzled with aromatic oil (the aromatic oils take a couple of hours to marinate; get them going ahead of time, then use them to add depth to a variety of dishes).

You can find all of the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 ADDITIONAL easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH ANCHOVIES, GARLIC AND ROSEMARY

45 minutes. 6 to 8 servings

3 salted anchovies (6 fillets)

6 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil, plus more if necessary

2 large (1½ to 1¾ pounds) round eggplants

2 long branches fresh rosemary

Salt

1. Rinse the anchovies under running water to remove excess salt and then soak in water to cover in small bowl until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the fillets, discard the skeletons and soak another 5 minutes until flexible. Cut into approximately half-inch crosswise pieces.

2. Using a very sharp knife, slice the garlic crosswise as thin as you can. Reserve the tops, bottoms and odd-shaped pieces in a bowl and cover with olive oil.

3. Trim the tops and bottoms of the eggplants, and cut the eggplants into 1-inch-thick crosswise slices.

4. Working with one slice at a time, use a paring knife to cut 5 shallow slits into the eggplant — four at the compass points and one in the center; they should be about one-half-inch deep and should not go all the way through.

5. Insert a garlic slice in each of the slits (if necessary, widen the slit by wiggling the paring knife in it). Insert a piece of anchovy in each slit. Finally, insert a tuft of rosemary in each slit. The fillings should be as close to flush with the surface as you can make them. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.

6. Sprinkle both sides of each eggplant slice with salt and brush generously with the garlic olive oil. Grill over a moderate fire until browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes.

7. Brush with more olive oil and use a spatula to turn to the other side and brush that with oil as well. Continue cooking and brushing with oil until the eggplant is browned on both sides and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

8. Remove to a platter, brush with any remaining oil and serve.

EACH OF 6 SERVINGS

Calories 283

Protein 2 grams

Carbohydrates 10 grams

Fiber 4 grams

Fat 28 grams

Saturated fat 4 grams

Cholesterol 2 mg

Sugar 5 grams

Sodium 59 mg

GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH RED AND YELLOW PEPPERSTotal time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup olive oil plus 1/2 teaspoon, divided

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallot

Kosher salt, coarse black pepper

1 large globe eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds

10 fresh basil leaves, torn

Fleur de sel

1. Coat the peppers with one-half teaspoon of olive oil. Roast on a baking pan, turning frequently until the peppers are vibrant in color with some char marks and the skin peels easily, about 35 minutes.

2. Remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers stand about 20 minutes or until cool. Peel the peppers, cut them into quarters and remove any seeds. Pat dry and cut into julienne strips.

3. Whisk the vinegar, garlic and shallot. Slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour the vinaigrette over the pepper strips and let stand while preparing the eggplant.

5. Cut both ends off the eggplant and slice crosswise into three-fourths-inch rounds and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Brush both sides of the sliced eggplant lightly with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

6. Grill the eggplant over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until charred and softened. Remove from heat.

7. Arrange grilled eggplant on serving plates and spoon over marinated peppers. Garnish with torn basil. Season with fleur de sel and coarse cracked black pepper to taste.

Each of 6 servings: 199 calories; 2 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 391 mg. sodium.

KUZINA'S BUTTERFLIED ROASTED EGGPLANT SALAD

Total time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours steeping time for the aromatic olive oil

Servings: 2

Note: The garlic olive oil and aromatic olive oil can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

Garlic olive oil

Peeled cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, about 7 to 8 cloves

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek

In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and oil and cook over low heat until the garlic turns a faint golden color, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and discard the garlic cloves. This makes about 1 cup garlic-infused oil, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The oil will keep up to 2 days, refrigerated.

Aromatic olive oil

1 bunch fresh herbs (any type desired)

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek

Blanch the herbs in a pot of boiling water until brightly colored, about 20 seconds. Drain and dry thoroughly. Place the herbs in a blender and pulse to chop, then add the olive oil and pulse to combine. Set aside for about 2 hours to steep, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. This makes about 3/4 cup aromatic oil, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The oil will keep for to 2 days, refrigerated.

Eggplant salad

1 eggplant

Garlic olive oil, as desired

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon diced tomato

1 tablespoon crumbled Greek feta cheese

1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

1/4 teaspoon chopped parsley

Aromatic olive oil, as desired

1. Roast the eggplant on a grill or stovetop burner until charred on all sides and the interior is very soft, 6 to 10 minutes depending on the heat.

2. Holding the stem in place, butterfly the eggplant so it opens almost like a panel, with the flesh totally exposed. Score the flesh crosswise.

3. Drizzle over a little garlic olive oil, the salt, tomato, feta and thyme. Garnish the eggplant with parsley and a drizzle of aromatic olive oil. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 199 calories; 4 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 4 mg. cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 1,221 mg. sodium. 

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