Eggplant: a veggie with a strange name and 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! I tried a direct approach and made this an easy-peasy treat with flavors from of all places, Japan and Morocco. These blends happen to be next to each other one night near my grill pan and it has really become a regular on my spice route.
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; 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 fresh trumps shape.
Eggplant, sliced into 1/3-1/2 inch planks
Ras el hanout spice blend, find at international spice stores
Ponzu sauce, at most supermarkets and Asian stores.
Oil to coat
DIRECTIONS: I don’t peel Japanese varieties, but peel the Italian globe types.
Slice the eggplant, lightly salt and place on toweling for up to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the grill or grill pan. Before grilling use more toweling and press on the slabs to expel liquid.
Brush oil on both sides of the planks.
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.
Also delicious as a planned-over, chopped and added to a salad or on an appetizer plate
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