In the Middle East eggplant is known as "the king of vegetables." When I grew up in Washington. DC, eggplant was never on the menu, but after I moved to Jerusalem, it became one of my favorite vegetables, both for cooking at home and for ordering in restaurants. I love grilling eggplant whole for salad but when I'm in a rush, that's not practical. Frying eggplant slices does cook them quickly but there's all that oil... Most of the time, I prefer a lighter option. There are two techniques that get the eggplant cooked rapidly and need just a touch of oil: Baking or broiling/grilling sliced eggplant. Basically you arrange the slices on a baking sheet, broiler pan or grill pan and bake, broil or grill them until they're tender. You need to turn them over but there's no splattering oil. If you're using the oven, you can cook a family-size amount all in one batch, unlike frying, which demands adding a few slices to the skillet at a time. Once the eggplant slices are done, you can serve them very simply, accompanied perhaps with a little hot pepper relish like s'hug, with a sauce like tehina, pesto or tomato sauce or topped with seasoned diced tomatoes moistened with extra-virgin olive oil. For a quick appetizer, dice the broiled slices and mix them with roasted peppers (even some from a jar) and flavor the mixture with garlic, olive oil and a hint of vinegar. Like fried eggplant, your tender eggplant slices are good in sandwiches, paired with cheese or smoked turkey and sliced tomatoes. Or partner the slices with humous, hard-boiled eggs and hot chutney ("amba" in Hebrew) to make a lower-calorie version of the scrumptious Iraqi-style Israeli sandwich, sabich. Baked or broiled eggplant slices are great in casseroles, such as Italian-style eggplant parmigiana, a traditionally heavy dish made with breaded, deep-fried eggplant layered with tomatoes and cheese. If you'd like a lighter version of moussaka, layer baked instead of fried eggplant with your usual ground meat mixture. An even easier option than moussaka is a dish that Sanaa Abourezk, author of Secrets of Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine, simply calls baked eggplant. She puts broiled eggplant slices in a baking dish and spreads them with a mixture of ground beef cooked with sauteed onions, then with tomato sauce, and bakes the mixture to a savory, easy-to-make casserole. She also uses broiled eggplant instead of fried in her rendition of maklobeh, a classic Middle Eastern upside-down rice and eggplant mold with meat. In fact, you can substitute your broiled or baked eggplant slices in just about any recipe that calls for fried eggplant. BROILED EGGPLANT SLICES You don't need to peel the eggplant unless its peel is tough. Serve it with Fresh Tomato-Pepper Salsa or with Savory Onion Topping (see recipes below). Makes 4 or 5 servings 4 2 medium eggplants, unpeeled, sliced 6 mm. thick 4 About 4 tsp. olive oil or vegetable oil 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper Arrange eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan. Brush lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil about 8 minutes. Turn over and broil about 7 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Serve hot, warm or room temperature. BAKED EGGPLANT SLICES Baking eggplant is a little easier than broiling, as there is less risk of them burning. For baking, I cut the eggplant a little thicker than for broiling. Serve these slices the same way as broiled eggplant slices. Makes 2 to 4 servings 4 1 medium or 2 small eggplants 4 11â„2 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper Preheat oven to 225ÂºC. Leave eggplant unpeeled; cut in crosswise slices 1 cm. thick. Put slices in 1 layer on a large lightly oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes; turn slices over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake about 10 more minutes or until tender. Serve hot or use in recipes. FRESH TOMATO-PEPPER SALSA Use this zesty red salsa dotted with fresh hot peppers and cilantro (fresh coriander) as a pungent topping for eggplant. I usually remove the seeds from hot peppers to moderate their heat but if you like them really hot, leave the seeds in. Makes 4 to 6 servings 4 350 gr. ripe tomatoes, chopped 4 2 fresh hot peppers, seeds removed, minced 4 1â„2 cup chopped cilantro 4 2 large green onions, chopped, or 1â„2-2â„3cup minced yellow onions 4 1â„4 tsp. salt 4 Cayenne pepper to taste (optional) 4 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional) Combine tomatoes, hot peppers, cilantro, and onions in bowl. Add 1â„4 teaspoon salt; season to taste with red pepper and add olive oil if you like. Serve salsa at room temperature, for spooning over eggplant. SAVORY ONION TOPPING WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL These onions cook gently until they are sweet and soft. Spoon them over broiled or baked eggplant slices, or mix this topping with some of the eggplant and use as a sauce for cooked pasta. Makes 4 servings 4 700 gr. onions, halved and sliced 4 2-4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper 4 450 gr. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or a 400-gr. can, drained and chopped 4 2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley Heat oil in a large saute pan or stew pan. Add onions. Saute over medium heat, stirring often, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, 5 minutes or until onions are golden brown and tender; reduce heat if they are browning too fast. Stir in tomatoes and cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick. Stir in most of basil, reserving a little for garnish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, room temperature or cold, sprinkled with remaining basil. EGGPLANT AND RICE CASSEROLE WITH MUSHROOMS Serve this casserole as a meatless entree, accompanied by salad and yogurt or feta cheese; or serve it to accompany beef or chicken. Makes 4 servings 4 1 large eggplant (about 500 gr.), cut in slices 6 mm. thick, broiled (see recipe Broiled Eggplant Slices, above) 4 About 2 Tbsp. olive oil 4 1 large onion, chopped 4 170 gr. mushrooms, sliced 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper 4 4 large garlic cloves, chopped 4 1 tsp. paprika 4 2 cups boiled rice 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper 4 Cayenne pepper to taste 4 1 egg Broil eggplant slices. Preheat oven to 175ÂºC. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy skillet. Add onion and saute 5 minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute over medium-high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Add garlic and 1â„2 teaspoon paprika and saute a few seconds. Remove from heat. Add rice and mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Lightly oil an 8-cup casserole. Prepare enough eggplant slices to make 2 layers in casserole. Dice any remaining slices and add to rice mixture. Place 1 layer of eggplant in casserole. Top with all of rice mixture, then with remaining eggplant slices. Beat egg with remaining paprika and 1â„4 cup water. Pour egg mixture over top of eggplant. Pour 1â„2 cup water around the edges of the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is brown. Serve hot. n Faye Levy is the author of Feast from the Mideast.