The Perfect Roasted--Grilled Eggplant
By Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
While eggplant is revered in the Middle East, it is generally overlooked by the western world. For centuries, Arabs have loved roasting, stewing, and even pickling eggplant in a delicacy called Makdous, where the eggplant is stuffed with walnuts, red pepper, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Eggplant makes a great nutritious replacement for meat in dishes, as it’s rich in vitamin B1, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
While many westerners find this vegetable daunting, a great introductory way to prepare this vegetable is by roasting, to use in sandwiches, wraps, rice dishes, or salads. Choose eggplant that feels heavy with smooth, taut, unblemished skin and fresh, plump green stalks. “Male” eggplant have a tiny circle on the bottom, and those tend to be sweeter with smaller seeds.
The key to perfectly roasted or grilled eggplant is to let the vegetable “sweat” it out, which removes bitterness from the seeds, tenderizes the flesh, and ensures that the eggplant absorbs less oil during cooking.
My favorite way to prepare roasted eggplant is to stack the slices in a sandwich with roasted red bell peppers, spinach and mint leaves, and hummus. This non-perishable sandwich tastes creamy, rich and smoky from the eggplant and hummus combined.
For the recipe technique, click on the video below:
Roasted Eggplant Recipe
1-2 large eggplants
½ cup olive oil, with a pastry brush for spreading.
Large cookie sheet
Thin kitchen towels or paper towels:
Cut the eggplant into ¼ inch slices, either peeled or unpeeled, depending on your personal preference. Place the eggplant slices on the cookie sheet, and liberally sprinkle each side with salt. Wait about 30 minutes to allow the eggplant to “sweat.” Once you see the water droplets on each slice, squeeze the liquid out of each slice of eggplant using a cloth or paper towel. Brush each slice with olive oil on both sides. Broil in the oven about 5 minutes, flip and broil another 5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning. For outdoor grilling, grill them 3-4 minutes each side over a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. They should be done when they are golden brown with tender flesh.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, food writer, and host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. Her new cookbook, “Feast in the Middle East” will be out this spring. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/