In Season: 7 eggplant dishes to try now

Late summer eggplants roll onto local menus
Pesce spada at Osteria Mattone
Pesce spada at Osteria Mattone

Photograph by Iain Bagwell

Picking the purple vegetable marks the imminence of fall. Chefs start trading in red tomatoes for their meatier oblong-shaped cousins, and diners start toting light jackets to the table. While Atlanta is far from winter, shorter days and cooler nights call for heartier dishes, like the seven here cooked up by local chefs.

1. Eggplant caponata at Floataway Cafe

No stranger to local ingredients, Anne Quatrano’s cozy cafe offers a Summerland Farm eggplant caponata, a side dish of eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, currants, and pine nuts that’s then dressed with balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce.

2. Rigatoni with lamb ragu and eggplant at Cakes & Ale

Ground lamb and meat-like eggplant from Woodland Gardens and Crystal Organic Farm meld together over housemade rigatoni pasta for a light take on Italian comfort food. For a vegetarian option, peek at the list of starters for a roasted eggplant dip.

3. Eggplant estofado at Iberian Pig

This Spanish stew is typically made with beef, but chef de cuisine Landon Thompson slowly braises summer eggplant with olive oil instead. It’s then dressed in goat cheese, caramelized onions, and corn salsa and topped with grilled zucchini, asparagus, walnut romesco and a rich balsamic reduction. Sharing with a group? Order the eggplant fries. 

4. Roasted eggplant toasts at No. 246

Paired with pickled cipollini onions, the simple starter is sourced from Local Lands in Dublin, Ga. and makes for a summery snack or first course. 

5. Rosé basted eggplant at Miller Union

Fairy Tale eggplants are among the first type harvested; their small size, lack of bitterness, and few seeds make them versatile for menus and experimentation. Steven Satterfield bastes Fairy Tale eggplant from Woodland Gardens in rosé for sweet and sparkling notes and serves it as a first course with Greek yogurt and herb salad.

6. Pan-roasted and braised octopus at Aria

The team at Aria uses eggplant from Hardiman Farm as an accent to this appetizer. Fairy Tale eggplant is marinated and mixed with pickled banana peppers, spicy arugula, romesco, and chili flake vinaigrette for a hearty serving of tentacles with a kick.

7. Pesce spada at Osteria Mattone

Grilled swordfish steak dazzles with an eggplant-based caponata, which also features crisp bell pepper and zucchini, golden raisins, pistachios, and basil oil. For a lighter taste of aubergine goodness, go for the grilled eggplant contorni, or side dish.