As September begins it is hot in Los Angeles–really hot–after a relatively mild earlier summer. Though the thermometer 🌡 is ticking up toward one hundred degrees, the humidity is mercifully low. As we say in LA, “at least it’s a dry heat” 🌵.
Unlike in most of the country–already cooling down, getting ready for Autumn🍁–the hottest months in Southern California are often September, and even October. So in this part of the world, it is no time to turn on the oven. Instead, grilling outdoors and then quickly retreating indoors is the best way to go..
This summer I’ve been on an eggplant kick. While my feelings for this vegetable in my childhood approached hatred, they have turned to a love affair in my adult years. The only eggplant dish I remember in my youth was heavily breaded and fried, ending up in baked Eggplant Parmesan. It required a lot of work on my mom’s part and it was a really heavy dish to eat.
Today I know that eggplant can be a blank canvas for lots of great summertime flavors as an easy-to-prepare side dish or light meal. One way to use eggplant is to basically dry it out so it becomes a flavor sponge. While pickled eggplant works great in this way, this recipe involves a simple, yet flavorful herbal marinade that soaks into the eggplant after it has been sliced and grilled. The dish is perfect for a light summertime side dish served at room temperature.
Prep is easy. After slicing the eggplant, lightly oil, salt and pepper it, then grill it until you have nice grill marks and the eggplant has dried out. While grilling, make the flavorful marinade, then combine the two while the eggplant is still warm. Let it marinate for an hour or refrigerate for later use.
Enjoy these last days official summer! Meantime in LA, the summer vibe 😎 will keep going until at least Halloween🎃.Print
Select smaller-sized eggplants. The bigger the eggplant, the bigger the seeds, which can be bitter. Eggplants should be uniformly purple. Light brown patches on an eggplant generally mean they are starting to rot on the inside.
- 4–6 small-to-medium Italian eggplants
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and rough-chopped
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- A combination of any or all of the following:
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- Small pinch red pepper flakes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground pepper
- Trim the stem end off the eggplants and slice lengthwise, ¼-inch thick. It’s more important to make the slices consistent with each other than to hit this exact thickness. This is so they grill evenly.
- Lay the eggplant slices on a sheet pan and salt both sides. Set aside for 10-15 minutes, then dab up the moisture with paper towels.
- While you heat your grill, use a brush to lightly coat each eggplant slice on both sides with olive oil, then salt and pepper on both sides.
- Grill the eggplant slices, turning once, until nice deep grill marks appear on the slices. Keep a close eye while you are grilling, as they can burn quickly.
- Make the herbal marinade in a small food prep mill, or by using an emersion blender or a mortar and pestle. Combine the garlic, herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and red pepper. Make sure all ingredients are ground and mixed together well. Then add several tbsps of olive oil and mix until a smooth, loose marinade forms. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
- Place the warm grilled eggplant slices in a shallow dish and coat them with the marinade, turning several times to coat.
- Leave for 1 hour at room temperature to marinate, or cover and refrigerate until ready for use, allowing the eggplant to come to room temperature before serving.