4 great eggplant ideas for Meatless Monday

Looking for a meatless option that still brings something rich and, well, meaty to the table? Try eggplant. Marinate thick slices and grill them to order as a smoky vegetarian burger option, or saute diced eggplant to add rich dimension to pasta sauce. Broil cubed eggplant and add to greens or grains as you build a colorful salad. Eggplants are loading the tables at farmers markets right now, so there are plenty of varieties and options. 

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.

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.

Fusilli with spicy eggplant: Toss fusilli pasta with a simple, rustic sauce combining cubed eggplant, tomatoes, capers and wine. Finish the dish with fresh basil and a sprinkling of ricotta salata for a simple one-dish meal.

Grilled ratatouille: And for a fun take on ratatouille, toss the vegetables on the grill, as the light charring adding a nice smokiness to the dish. Here's the recipe:

GRILLED RATATOUILLE

1 large eggplant

1 large red onion

4 tomatoes

4 small zucchini

6 large cloves garlic, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt, pepper

1/2 cup sliced basil

1. Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Grill over hot coals until soft and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

2. Cut onion into 6 wedges, leaving onion connected at root end. Grill, turning often, until soft and slightly charred, about 15 minutes.

3. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Grill until soft and slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Grill until soft and slightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Grill garlic, turning often, 5 minutes.

6. Chop eggplant, onion, tomatoes and zucchini into 1/2-inch dice. Mince garlic. Combine in large bowl.

7. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Stir in basil. Add to vegetables and toss.

Each of 6 servings: 63 calories; 60 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.06 grams fiber.

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