It’s a great time of year to try out some new eggplant recipes. Whether from the farmers market, your local CSA or your own garden, freshly harvested eggplants are at their best. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. Bright fuchsia Dancer, slender dark violet Orient Express, pure white Clara, beautifully variegated Nubia, all the varieties we have harvested this year have thin skin and minimal seeds.
What we most often consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties. Actually Asian eggplants, whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg as well as the dark purple we are most familiar with.
In this Thai-style recipe for a yam or salad, eggplant slices are brushed with oil and grilled. If the weather is inclement or you just don’t have the time to fire up the grill they can be cooked indoors on a ridged grill pan.
Save the seasoning until after the grilling the eggplant. It’s then the creamy flesh will soak up the flavor of the ginger and soy, transforming the once raw bitter slices to something delicious.
Though not necessarily typical of this type of salad, I served the grilled eggplant slices on salad greens. Our lettuces have made their late summer return to the garden and I tossed some assorted greens with a few sweet cherry tomatoes, basil and mint. I used the small spicy leaves of Thai basil and Vietnamese mint that doesn’t overpower the salad. An Asian style vinaigrette combining the traditional combination of hot, sour salty and sweet dresses the greens and enhances the flavor of the grilled eggplant.
Grilled Asian Eggplant Salad
- 1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 c peanut or canola oil
- 3 T finely minced shallot
- 1 1/2 T fish sauce
- 2 t granulated sugar
- 1 to 2 Thai bird chiles, minced, or 1-1/2 to 2 serrano chiles, seeded, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T minced fresh ginger
- 1-1/2 T soy sauce
- 1 1/2 lb. long, slender Asian eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 4-5 c baby lettuce leaves
- 10 to 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
- 1 c packed fresh basil leaves, Thai, if you have it
- 1/4 c packed fresh mint leaves, I used Vietnamese mint (very mild)
- Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Alternately heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk 3 Tbs. of the oil with the lime juice, 2 Tbs. of the shallot, the fish sauce, 1 tsp. of the sugar, and the chiles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In another small bowl, combine 2 tsp. water with the ginger, soy sauce, the remaining 1 Tbs. shallot, and 1 tsp. sugar.
- Arrange the eggplant halves on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Alternately grill the eggplant in a grill pan, 3-5 minutes on each side until tender.
- Combine the lettuces, tomatoes, basil, and mint in a large bowl. Re whisk the lime dressing and toss just enough into the salad to lightly coat the greens. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to a platter and arrange the eggplant over the salad. Spoon the ginger mixture over the eggplant, and serve immediately.