Broiled Summer Eggplant

by Bri on August 16, 2007

Two summers ago my husband Marc and I had our first experience of homemade melt-in-your-mouth-amazing broiled eggplant. I was working for a small organic farm in Santa Barbara, CA. The heavy lifting and set up of selling produce at the farmers market was brutal, but I LOVED talking with people, sharing recipes, and best of all…bringing home gorgeous produce.

I decided to try several varieties of medium sized eggplant, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I do know that the eggplant varieties from farm stands and local small farmers are WAY tastier then the bland giant globes that come from the big supermarkets. If it’s organic, even better. Now…I think eggplant is unduly maligned as a difficult fruit (and it is a fruit) to prepare. Who could be intimidated by these?

Fairy Tale Eggplant

They’re called Fairy Tale Eggplant for gosh sakes!

Once you get to know it’s quirks, eggplant can open the door to many culinary adventures.

Eggplant Rules:

1. Eggplant does not like to be refrigerated, so if you don’t have a cool place to store it at about 50 degrees (your fridge is usually about 40 degrees), prepare it the day you buy it.

2. Eggplant should be firm, without wrinkles or indents and have a lustrous shine.

3. Eggplant soaks up whatever liquid touches it. Bad news if you steam or boil it since it gets soggy, mealy and tasteless. Great news if you use good quality olive oil or a flavorful braising liquid like in Chinese, Thai or Indian cuisine.

So, now that you know how to play nicely with eggplant, I’d like to share my favorite way to prepare it at home. As I said in my Summer Squash post, direct flame really brings out the flavors of summer veggies. Broiling is more convenient for me right now, but of course a grill is great too, if you have one. To prep the eggplant, I like to peel back the stem like the eggplant on the right.

Eggplant with Trimmed Stem

That way, when I cut the stem off, I don’t lose the few inches that were hidden. Then, slice it into about half inch rounds. Try to be consistent with the thickness (even if I wasn’t in this photo), since you want them to cook at the same rate.

Eggplant Slices

I’ve found rounds to be the best because it’s still encircled with the peel, so it holds it’s shape after cooking. If you were just going to roast it for baba ganoush, it wouldn’t matter if the eggplant fell apart.

Once you’ve cut the eggplant, many recipes call for degorging the slices of excess liquid with salt for 20-30 minutes. The main reason for this is to purge bitterness, but I generally don’t find that to be necessary. I have prepared it many times both ways, and frankly haven’t noticed many of the eggplant that I buy to be bitter. So why make extra work for yourself, I say.

But if you notice that the eggplant you are growing, or buying, is consistently bitter, now you know what to do about it. Back to the recipe…which is really more of a technique.

Set the slices in a single layer on a sheet pan and coat them in olive oil with a pastry brush. Salt them and put them under the broiler for about four or five minutes. Don’t forget about them! Things in the broiler can burn if you aren’t paying attention.

The eggplant may need another application of olive oil, but if they look good and don’t need it, don’t bother. If you take them out of the broiler and they look dried out, but not browned yet, brush more oil on. If they are nicely browned and the skin is starting to crisp up, flip them, brush with oil, salt them and put them back under the broiler for another three minutes or so.

The second side doesn’t take as long as the first because they are already partially cooked through and the sheet pan is hot. When the second side is browned, pull them out and put a small ball of fresh mozzarella on each one. If you are planning to use them for a party, or, if you are preparing several dishes and those just aren’t ready yet, now would be the time to set the eggplant aside.

When you are ready to melt the cheese, put the cheese-topped, cooked eggplant back into the broiler for one to two minutes. Again, watch them carefully. They won’t need long for the cheese to melt and develop some golden areas. Just serve them as a delicious dish with a little tomato sauce on the side. The tangy sweetness of the tomato sauce pairs beautifully with the rich creaminess of the eggplant and cheese.

Broiled Eggplant with Melted Cheese

You also could skip the cheese step and layer the eggplant in lasagna, ratatouille or panini (grilled sandwiches) or put it on pizza…you name it! Since discovering this dish, every summer, for a month or two, we can’t help but make it a couple times a week. Yum!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

dave August 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm

I LOVE EGGPLANT — but always drown it in oil — and as you indicated it soaks it right up — and makes it sort of soggy too — never thought to use the broiler and put motzarella on at the end!!! Looks SOOOOO good — I will def try this – It loks like a great appetizer for a small party and easy to fix up — What was the garnish you used??

I just did a light summer appetizer of honeydew wrapped in prosciutto — soo yummy — maybe there’s a good meat sub you could use —

keep em comin!!

Patricia Scarpin August 17, 2007 at 9:47 am

I love eggplants but don’t cook with them as much as I should – this dish looks mouthwatering!

admin August 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Yeah, it still takes a bit of oil, but the broiling method does use a lot less oil, and gets that great crispness along with the tenderness. I garnished the eggplant with basil. Eggplant and basil play quite nicely together. Cilantro and eggplant are good friends too. Hmmm…I’d have to think about a sub for prosciutto. I know that melon and prosciutto are a really good combo, but I never had them together before I went veggie.

admin August 17, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Thanks Patricia. They really are easy, as long as you don’t let them burn, and just so melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Let me know if you try it out.

Megan August 18, 2007 at 11:08 am

Hi Bri,
I’m so inspired by your blog. That eggplant dish looks great! I look forward to trying it later in the week. I wanted to share a receipe with you. I’ve been roasting veggies a lot lately and was amazed at how yummy eggplant can be when roasted. I’ve been using Japanese eggplant, long and thin. I sliced it in 1/2 inch pieces, with sliced red bell peppers, inch chunks, chunks of sliced red onion and minced garlic, salt and olive oil, mixed together in a baking dish in the oven at 425 for 40 min, mixing up 1/2 through, serving with chopped basil and lemon juice. Yum!
thanks for the food inspiration!

admin August 18, 2007 at 11:24 am

You’re so sweet Megan. Thanks! I will have to try out your roasting method. I usually think of roasting hard veggies like potatoes and carrots, but I’ll have to try it out with these summer veg. I bet the basil and lemon juice really compliment them. Stay tuned!

gopal kumar July 26, 2009 at 12:32 am

hi good dish ……………..

Carla July 17, 2010 at 6:40 am

I can not wait to try this recipe as soon as my fairy tale eggplants get big enough. I also have white eggplant growing. Do you have any thoughts or recipes for the white one? Thanks

Marc July 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I haven’t used fairy tale eggplant for this dish since they are so tiny. I found that globe eggplant seem to work perfectly for this cooking technique. You should definitely try it out because it is so easy and never fails to get raves.

I haven’t use white eggplant in years. I think they are supposed to be a little softer than purple eggplant, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.

Scrumptious August 16, 2010 at 10:40 am

I made these last week and put them on pizza. They were incredible! I used fat Asian eggplants, and they were heartbreakingly good. This recipe is going to become a staple!

Marc August 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Scrumptious- I am so glad you liked them. It really is ridiculously easy and as long as you use good quality eggplant, olive oil and mozzarella, it always turns out great.

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