The eggplant is a rather unimpressive looking and tasting vegetable on it’s own. An oblong shape with black skin and a nondescript flavor. It’s best known for being deep fried with a breading and then smothered with marinara sauce and cheese – the American eggplant parmigiana.
However, the eggplant is much more if you don’t treat it as just an afterthought. The eggplant can be transformed into something wonderful. Think of baba ganoush for a second. The base of the entire dish is an eggplant that has been roasted in high heat. The flesh takes on this smoky flavor that is unexpected and what makes eggplant so special.
Related Recipe: Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Goat Cheese
The key is high heat, rather it be roasting in the skin or on the grill. But the grill is where one needs to take note about the importance of the char. Something magical happens to eggplant when it’s thrown on a hot open flame. It transforms from something bland that needs other flavors to make it “ok” to something that can stand on it’s own.
So how do you grill eggplant to get the ever so important char? The first thing is to slice the eggplant into about half inch slices. Then you are going to salt the eggplant and place in a colander in the sink for 30 minutes. Why? It removes any sort of bitterness that eggplants can sometimes have. While the eggplant is “salting”, get either a gas grill going to high heat or a charcoal grill (hint: it gets even more flavor with charcoal). Next step is to rub the eggplant with some olive oil. The eggplant is a sponge so do try not to bathe it in it. Sorta negates the healthy aspect of grilling eggplant. Place on the grill, over the hottest spots for about 4-5 minutes on each side. You want black, a char, an almost a sear on the outside.
Related Recipe: Grilled Skirt Steak with Charred Eggplant and Heirloom Tomatoes
Once you’ve charred each side of the eggplant, remove from the grill. You can serve as is or maybe drizzle with a little more olive oil and red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Eat hot or in an anti-pasta platter!
Just remember – do not be afraid of the high heat char!