Genius Microwaved Eggplant

Every week Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The best, fastest, lightest eggplant technique you haven't tried yet. (It's in the microwave. Don't be mad.)

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

I'd like to make an announcement: You can cook eggplant in the microwave -- and you should.

I know what you're going to say. You'll want to talk about the relationship you have with your eggplant -- how you love to rake it around the roasting pan or plunge it in hot oil with all your senses engaged. You want to be right there with it, watching its stubborn, spongy belly meat give in and melt into soft gold.

>>RELATED: Another Genius Recipe: Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.

That's lovely. I want that too, sometimes. But what if it's still 90 degrees in your kitchen? What if you're hungry now? What if you don't want to trick your eggplant into submission with a lot of oil, for the umpteenth time this summer?

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

Eggplant, we love you, but you're a little too needy for being in season this time of year. There are only so many times we will break a sweat over you before we decide to go eat a tomato sandwich for dinner.

In 1992, Barbara Kafka, a.k.a. The Microwave Gourmet, fixed all that. She's not afraid to cook risotto or pâté in the microwave -- why would eggplant stop her?

Photo from bkafka.com

Not only is it a faster, cooler, and cleaner way to cook eggplant -- it's, frankly, the best tasting one we tested.

The flesh sort of crinkles up and the sweet flavors concentrate. It's soft but not flimsy; aggressively flavored but still tasting of itself. Once bystanders stop gawking and try a bite, it immediately disappears.

When you're ready to step back for once and just eat some good eggplant, try this:

Halve a few skinny Chinese eggplants and crosshatch their middles.

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

Make a gingery marinade in the blender.

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52Photo by James Ransom

Spoon it over the eggplants, rub it in, and let them sit for a bit.

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

Cover them with microwave-safe plastic wrap and zap it for 10 minutes.

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

All microwaves are different. At full blast (1,200 watts), ours consistently cooked the eggplant perfectly, but a little of the plastic wrap melted away. If that scares you (and here's why, if you're using the right kind, it shouldn't), use a microwave-safe casserole dish with a lid or experiment with lower power settings -- but we much preferred the high power results.

So next week (or next summer), you can give your best to eggplant -- salt, drain, and wring out its bitter tears; slather it with oil; crank your ovens; breathe deeply; do a twirl. But tonight, you can just nuke it. And eat even better.

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant from Food52

Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant

Adapted slightly from The New York Times (July 8, 1992)

Serves 4

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 medium-size cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3/8 ounce peeled fresh ginger (a 1-by-1/4-inch piece), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
4 small Chinese eggplants (2 to 3 ounces each)

1. Combine all ingredients, except eggplants, in a blender. Process until smooth.

2. Prick the eggplants several times with a fork and pull off the leaves. Cut in half lengthwise. On the open side of each half, make three deep diagonal slashes in each direction. Place eggplants skin side down in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch microwave-safe oval dish.

3. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the marinade over each eggplant half. Rub the marinade into the flesh so that it runs into the cuts. Turn eggplants skin side up. Pour remaining marinade into dish. Let stand for 45 minutes.

4. Turn eggplants skin side down. Cover tightly with lid or microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100 percent power in a high-power oven for 10 minutes. Prick plastic to release steam.

5. Remove from microwave and uncover. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Save and print the recipe on Food52.

Photos by James Ransom