Gussied-Up Grilled Eggplant

 Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Have you been getting the eggplant in the height of the season and noticing how great they taste compared to those other times of the year? I have just fallen for large grilled “steaks” of eggplant with that smoky essence and flavored with the moistness of olive oil, avoiding the heavy oil of deep frying.  One of eggplant’s greatest strengths—its ability to absorb other flavors—is also its greatest weakness when it comes to absorbing fats and oils. That’s why the grilling method is stellar – it requires little oil and produces lighter results.  The debate continues whether to peal eggplant or leave that gorgeous skin on. When grilling, the skin serves the purpose of holding the eggplant slices together. Once the eggplant has been grilled, those who avoid the skin will find it drops off beautifully.

Problem is, I seem to get in that grilled eggplant rut of wanting the vegetable but tiring of the same old rendition. Snazzy, yet easy toppings come to the rescue inspired by an article in Fine Cooking Magazine. They are simple because they can be made ahead and use items you have in the garden and pantry.

The toppings, salsas or relishes (whatever you would like to call them) can be made in advance and brought to room temperature before topping the eggplant. For the Moroccan topping, just add the toasted walnuts at the last minute.


Grilled Eggplant Rounds as the “Base”

  • 2 medium eggplants (1 3/4 to 2 pounds total)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Heat the grill over medium-high.

 While grill heats, cut off bottoms of eggplants, then cut 6 (1/2-inch-thick) crosswise rounds from each, starting from cut end. 

 Lightly brush eggplant rounds on both sides with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over occasionally, lightly brush with more oil occasionally if it looks dry, until eggplant is very tender, 6 to 10 minutes. 

Grilled Eggplant with Parmesan Crumbs

The following recipe may appear simplistic and that’s a good thing. However it adds a crunchy texture and flavorful spark to the eggplant.

  • 1/2 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs, preferably from a rustic French or Italian loaf
  • 1/4 cup plus; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup  finely diced scallion
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Locatelli cheese

 In small saucepan or skillet over medium heat, add the oil. When hot, add the cook bread crumbs and cook until golden, tossing lightly. Stir in the onion and garlic and remove from the heat. When cool, add the herbs, capers and cheese.

Top hot from the grill eggplant.

 Grilled Eggplant with Moroccan Relish 

  • 2/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted

 Combine all of the ingredients except the walnuts and refirgerate until ready to serve. When serving, stir in the walnuts.


 Grilled Eggplant with Feta

This fine and robust topping would also make a dyn-o-mite salad dressing.

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 In a medium bowl, mix these ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve.