Ever since I was young, I have loved eggplant. I’m not sure why. (Maybe it’s because it’s also called by its French name, Aubergine…pronounced oh-bear-jhean…in Europe and Canada).
But I do remember that my late Auntie Ruth (my mother’s older sister) always served an eggplant caponata dip, with crackers, at all our family gatherings. The squishy, chewy texture, and rich flavor brings back so many memories.
So, a few years ago, when I started barbecuing during the summers, I began experimenting with eggplant on the grill. I feel like I have perfected it…as even our most finicky guests comment: “Wow – I’ve never tasted Eggplant like that. I like it!”
Salt and resting are my secrets.
About six to eight hours before I plan to serve my grilled veggies, I cut the eggplant into 1-inch slices (keeping the skin on). (I am referring to the large dark purple skinned eggplants that you find in your produce department.) I arrange them on baking sheets and salt them heavily with KOSHER salt, leaving them out on the counter at room temperature. The Kosher salt causes the eggplant to sweat (beads of water will form) and this removes the bitterness of the eggplant. After an hour or so, I pat off the water with paper towels, flip the eggplant slices over and salt the other side, and repeat the process for another hour.
Then the grilling begins. I fire up the grill (first on HIGH, and then when the grill is hot, turn the heat down to medium-high). I gently brush olive oil on each eggplant slice and place the oil-side down on the grill. Close the barbeque cover, let the eggplant slices grill for about 8 to 10 minutes. While still on the grill, brush the top side of the eggplant with olive oil. Turn it over to cook on the second side for another 5 to 6 minutes (or until tender when touched with tongs).
And now, the second half of my secret recipe…I remove the eggplant slices from the grill and place on a serving platter and cover it with foil. I let the eggplant rest at room temperature (under foil) for at least 2 to 3 hours. (Then I usually grill Zucchini slices, red and yellow peppers and Portobello mushrooms and arrange them on top of the eggplant, under the foil).
The RESTING does something special to the eggplant. The flavors open up. I usually drizzle a light Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (or balsamic glaze) over the veggie platter during this resting period.
Nowadays, there are numerous commercially grown varieties that come in many shapes and colors. Check them out: Graffiti Eggplant, Japanese Eggplant, Chinese Eggplant, Thai Eggplant, White Eggplant, and Indian Eggplant.
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