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!
Summertime and the grilling is easy… Well, that’s me paraphrasing the George Gershwin classic, but the statement is spot on. Grilling is easy, and it is my favorite way of preparing food during the hot summer months. Over the years I figured out how to grill quite a few different things, and at the end of the day grilling is really easy and with a little practice you can get really good at grilling almost anything. My Grilled Portobello Steaks recipe was just the beginning of “From the Grill” section of this blog and in addition to that recipe and the Roasted Red Beets Hummus, there’s much more to come.
Today I am sharing a quick and easy way to make perfect grilled eggplant. Eggplant is a tricky vegetable to make because of its spongy texture that absorbs oil like crazy making almost every commonly encountered eggplant dish too oily and too rich. In the past I tried the trick where you sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and let it sit between the paper towels, which does help but it adds salt and it takes time. More recently I started skipping all this and either simply cubing the eggplant, skin and all, or roasting the eggplant before stuffing.
Now this Grilled Eggplant recipe couldn’t be easier and does not require any special eggplant handling. Actually, the simple marinade I make, which includes couple of smokey spices, like smoked paprika, chili powder, liquid smoke and allspice, mixed with lemon juice and zest, can work well for summer squash, zucchini, or even tofu.
What you’ll need:
2 large eggplants
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons garlic powder
What you’ll do:
In a large plastic container with a tight fitting lid, mix lemon juice and zest, soy sauce, liquid smoke and all the spices to make a pasty marinade.
Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut lengthwise into 1/4 in (2.5 cm) thick slices.
Place the eggplant into the marinade. Cover every piece well (use your fingers to help spread it out) and stack ghee eggplant slices. Cover with the lid and let stand for 30 to 60 minutes on the kitchen counter.
Prepare your outdoor grill as you normally do. For me this means turning all the burners on high (I have a gas grill) with the lid down for 10 minutes, turning the flames down to low then using a steel brush to clean the grill grate. Finally, before placing food on the grill, I oil the grill well. I use a pair of long tongs and a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
Bring the heat up to medium. Spray each eggplant slice with a bit of cooking spray before placing on the grill. Leave it to grill on one side for about 4 to 5 minutes. Depending on how hot your grill is this may take a bit longer.
Spread the leftover marinade over the top of the eggplant slices before turning over. Grill for another 3 to 5 minutes.
Take off the grill and serve. The grilled eggplant works well as a topping for couscous, rice or polenta. It also works really well in sandwiches and salads. My serving suggestion would be to wrap it in a grilled pita topped with plain hummus and sprinkled with kalamata olives.