Simple may not always be better, but it is absolutely true that when it comes to vegetable side dishes keeping things simple and letting the vegetables speak for themselves goes a very long way. For example, grilling is one of the best ways to add a lot of flavor without any extra ingredients of complicated prep procedures. And eggplant is probably one of the most grill-friendly vegetables out there!
But, before the eggplant hits the grill (or a pan) it is important to soften it and let some of the bitterness drain out. Very often that means salting the sliced eggplant and letting it sit in between paper towels to absorb the moister that the salted eggplant will release. Doing this removes some of the bitterness that eggplant can sometimes have as well as make the eggplant less like a sponge.
This recipe does have one important trick that really elevates the flavors – rubbing the grilled eggplant slices with a clove or garlic to add that great garlic flavor! This is a trick that you often see used for making garlic bread to infuse garlic aroma into toasted bread – it avoids having to deal with raw garlic pieces, and it is very effective.
Finally, what makes this simple side dish come together is the lemon juice and lemon zest. This small amount of acidity and the freshness that lemon zest contributes really bring the simplicity to a new level. You can serve this elegant vegetable dish warm, as a side, or cold as a salad. Either way, give this a try and see whether you are with me when I say that simple is the way to go!!!
Citrus Infused Pan-Seared Eggplant with Black Olives
What you’ll need:
2 large Italian eggplants, sliced into rounds
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 cup black olives, sliced
2-3 teaspoons coarse salt
Cooking spray (or olive oil)
What you’ll do:
- Wash the eggplant, and slice into round slices (about 1/4 in (5 mm) in thickness). Place on the two layers of paper or kitchen towel, sprinkle with salt, then cover with another layer of towels, and let stand for 20-30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the extra moisture out of the eggplant, and with it some of natural bitterness that eggplant sometimes has. Remove the paper towels, and pat dry the eggplant slices.
- Put a large grill pan over the high heat to make the pan really hot. Reduce the heat to medium, then spray with some cooking spray or brush with some olive oil. Place eggplant slices on and grill on both sides in batches until all the eggplant is grilled. You can also use an outdoor grill or a regular pan. The point is to blacken and cook the eggplant through, which will take 3-5 minutes per side.
- Use the garlic clove and rub the eggplant slices, so that they are infused with garlic aroma. Place the garlic rubbed eggplant into a large mixing bowl, add lemon juice, lemon zest, and sliced black olives. Mix well and you are done! If you like to add a bit more flavors to this simple side dish, you can drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle fresh parsley, or add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes if you are open to turning on the heat!
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