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Make room on grill for eggplant

Smoky, charred vegetable can be served in its flesh

By CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Published: July 10, 2024, 6:04am

Summer grilling tends to focus on meat, but vegetables also get great flavor from a stint over hot coals. So move the burgers and hot dogs to the side and make room on your grill for smoky, tender eggplant.

In this recipe from our cookbook “Milk Street 365: The All-Purpose Cookbook for Every Day of the Year,” we halve eggplants instead of keeping them whole, exposing the flesh to the direct heat to develop deeper flavor. Making a crosshatch pattern in the flesh with a knife further increases the surface area to maximize browning.

The eggplants are cooked cut-side down until well browned, then flipped and brushed with garlic oil. Bits of garlic are pushed into the cuts, where they soften and mellow. The eggplant then is covered and roasted until a skewer inserted at the narrow end of the largest eggplant half meets no resistance, then finished with a fresh salad of parsley, mint, sesame seeds and lemon zest.

We like to serve the eggplant in the charred skins, but the cooked flesh also can be scooped into a bowl, mashed and mixed with the herb mixture, then finished with olive oil and lemon juice.

If you prefer to cook the eggplant indoors, broil the oil-brushed eggplant halves cut-side up on a wire rack set on a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet.

Grilled Eggplant With Sesame and Herbs

Start to finish: 1 hour Servings: 6

2 medium eggplants (1 to 1½ pounds each), halved lengthwise

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra to serve

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

6 medium garlic cloves, finely grated

½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

½ cup finely chopped fresh mint

6 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. For a gas grill, turn half of the burners to high and heat, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.

Using a paring knife, carefully score the flesh of each eggplant half in a crosshatch pattern, spacing the cuts about ¾ inch apart. Be careful not to cut through the skin. Use ¼ cup of the oil to brush the eggplant flesh evenly, then season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ¼ cup oil and the garlic.

Grill the eggplant halves cut side down on the hot side of the grill until well browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Flip the halves cut side up and move to the cooler side of the grill. Brush the garlic-oil mixture onto the flesh, using the brush to push the garlic into the cuts. Cover and cook until a skewer inserted at the narrow end of the largest eggplant half meets no resistance, 30 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, mint, sesame seeds, lemon zest and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Use a spoon to carefully separate the flesh from the skin of each half, but leaving it in place. Sprinkle each half with the herb mixture, then carefully stir it into the flesh to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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