Eggplant is often an underappreciated vegetable. Most people think of it as a vegetarian alternative to meat in dishes like lasagna and babaganoush. And while the funky-looking purple vegetable performs adequately in these dishes, the grill gives eggplant the opportunity to really shine.
Choosing the Perfect Eggplant
Eggplant isn’t a vegetable most people eat every day, so here are a few tips on choosing one that’s fresh and tasty. First, look for an eggplant that is smooth and shiny and feels a bit heavy. The best eggplants will be in stores in late summer, so if you’re shopping out of season, be extra careful that you’re getting a fresh one. If eggplants are stored too long, they can become bitter. Second, press on the skin gently to make sure the eggplant isn’t mushy. It should give a little, but bounce right back (sort of like a cucumber).
Why Eggplant Deserves a Place on Your Grill
If you’ve never eaten eggplant before, you may be wondering why should give it a try. Eggplants are powerhouse vegetables, offering a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidents, thanks to the dark purple skin. They are a great source of fiber, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B3, Vitamin K, potassium, and folate. In addition to their nutritional benefits, eggplants also make a hearty, filling addition to the menu. They can hold their own as a stand-alone side dish or make the perfect complement to a mixed grill.
How to Grill Perfect Eggplant
Slice the eggplant in half length-wise or into round slices. Salt generously and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour. The salt will draw out the bitter juices and keep the eggplant from soaking up too much oil. When you’re ready to grill, rinse the salt off the eggplant, brush with oil and season to taste. Grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until grill marks turn dark and flesh is tender. The thicker your slices, the longer grilling time you’ll need. Below are some seasoning ideas to help the flavor of your eggplant really pop:
- Garlic-Herb–Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and parsley.
- Greek–Olive oil, minced onion, and minced olives. Garnish with feta cheese after grilling.
- Italian–Olive oil, minced garlic, and oregano. Layer with mozzarella and sliced or grilled tomatoes
- Parmesan-crusted–Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic and salt. Grill until tender and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.