Eggplant: A Veggie With A Strange Name And Too Long A Stranger In Our Kitchens
It can be difficult to render eggplant into a side or main course dish. Many world cuisines adore her, but in our own it is hard to find a way home. Let’s do!
It is a star in my garden; both beautiful and a way to get fresh eggplant! This offering is an easy-peasy treat with ingredients from of all places, both Japan and Morocco.
Ras el hanout is a dry spice blend; the name translates as “top-shelf.” It is a blend similar to garam masala (feel free to substitute). The other pairing is Ponzu sauce; a soy sauce and sour citrus blend that both seasons and adds acidity to a dish. So the two work together and I had a serendipitous evening discovering this dish.
INGREDIENTS: I prefer the long, thin Japanese eggplants for grilling, but any fresh eggplant is best.
- Eggplant- sliced into 1/3-1/2 inch thick planks
- Oil to coat
- Baking Soda
- Ras el hanout spice blend- find at international spice stores or use garam masala or five-spice
- Ponzu sauce- find at most supermarkets and Asian stores.
DIRECTIONS: I don’t peel Japanese varieties, but peel the Italian globe types if the skin is thick.
- Slice the eggplant. If you have time and want a special presentation, use a sharp paring knife and cut hatch marks into either side of the eggplant.
- Meanwhile heat the grill or grill pan.
- Brush oil on both sides of the planks.
- Add a dusting of baking soda to the grill or grill pan—it quickens the browning time.
- Begin to grill and sprinkle with ras el hanout. Flip the eggplant when well marked—a few minutes over a hot, direct flame. Add a sprinkle more of the spice. When grill marks appear on second side place slabs on a warm plate and spritz with a little ponzu sauce. Serve immediately.
SERVING OPTION: One of my favorite presentations is to serve atop a fresh garden salad; lay the eggplant-right off the grill-onto the greens to wilt the upper part of the salad..
PLANNED-OVERS: chop and add to a salad or on an appetizer plate with crackers
TIPS: Don’t move veggies on the grill or grill pan until several minutes. You want to embed grill marks and moving them will defeat the purpose. Eggplants will continue to cook off the grill, so take them off the grill before they are translucent and mushy.
Recipe by B. Hettig © 2017, 2020