Eggplants are in season and I have really been enjoying my mother’s Grilled Eggplant with Balsamic and Garlic. The eggplant is charred on the grill and then topped with oregano, garlic and balsamic vinegar. It is so easy but yet so incredibly flavorful. I think I like this way of cooking eggplant as much as I love caponata.
This rustic recipe uses the simplest of ingredients and combines them, without any fussy process, to create a tasty, mouth-watering dish. Each ingredient stands out and the eggplant acts as a luscious and creamy base for all those flavors.
How to make grilled eggplant
Eggplant: Make sure to pick out a good ones! Ripe eggplant should be firm but not hard and it should have shiny skin. Small to medium sized bulbs will be the least bitter. The larger the eggplant, the more seeds it will have and the seeds are where most of the bitterness lies.
Garlic: Use fresh garlic and dice it very finely. Because the garlic will be eaten raw, you want to make sure that it is distributed on the eggplant in very small portions.
Dried Oregano: I like the robust flavor that dried oregano brings to this dish, but you can also use fresh if you have it. You may need to use a little more than a teaspoon of the fresh because the flavor of fresh herbs is not as concentrated as it is in dried.
Balsamic Vinegar: I would recommend using a plan balsamic vinegar. Although I love many of the flavor varieties, I think that the original works best here.
Grilling and assembling the eggplant
- Slice the eggplant and salt it on both sides.
- Put it in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Brush olive oil on both sides of the eggplant and grill it on medium high heat.
- Remove it from the grill and top it with black pepper , garlic, oregano and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Make sure to cook the eggplant all the way through, in fact err on the side of over coking rather then undercooking it. Undercooked eggplant will have an unpleasant spongey texture, while thoroughly cooked eggplant will be tender and creamy.
Why do you salt eggplant?
Salting eggplant slices before cooking does two things:
1 It help to mellow the flavor and remove any bitterness that there may be in the plant. Although the eggplants we get at the market today have been bred to be less bitter, it has not been totally eliminated.
2 The salt makes the eggplant sweat, thus drawing out some of the water trapped in the vegetable. This results in a less spongey, creamier eggplant. This also keeps it from getting soggy while cooking.
One of the things I love about this recipe is that it is so versatile. Grilled eggplant makes a wonderful appetizer on it’s own or as part of an antipasto tray. It’s also a delicious side dish that pairs well with fish, pork, beef or chicken. I love it as a side to Mediterranean Lollipop Lamb Chops or Roasted Port Tenderloin.
It also fits perfectly into a low carb or vegetarian diet.
This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. It is just as delicious at room temperature or warmed up just before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
You don’t have to peel eggplant before preparing it. I like the texture of the peel and the way it kind of holds the eggplant together. But if you don’t like it or if you have trouble digesting it, you can remove the peel.
Many recipes will have you rinse it and then apply salt when you cook it. You don’t have to rinse it for this recipe. Because we are not adding any more salt to the eggplant as we cook it there is no reason to rinse off the salt. You will remove some of it when you pat it dry. Also if you rinse it, you are adding water back in to the eggplant that you just spent an hour removing water from.
Leftovers should placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for several days. Remove them from the refrigerator about an hour before you plant to eat if you want to serve them at room temperature or they can be easily reheated in the microwave.
- 2 Eggplants small to medium
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 tsp Oregano Dried
- 2 cloves Garlic fine diced
- 1 tbsp Salt kosher
- 1 tsp Black pepper ground
- 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- Cut the eggplant into ¼"-½" thick slices. Salt on both sides and place in a colander set over a plate or in a sink. Set the eggplant aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Pre-heat your grill or grill pan. Pat the eggplant slices dry with a paper towel.
- Brush each slice with olive oil and lay on the grill oil side down. Brush the top of the eggplant with olive oil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until there are dark grill marks on the eggplant. Turn over and grill for another 5 minutes. The eggplant should be tender, not be spongy, when pierced with a fork.
- Transfer the eggplant to a platter or baking sheet. Drizzle with additional olive oil if you like. Sprinkle the pepper, oregano and garlic over the eggplant. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.