“The smell of manure, of sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps further, and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds – rich chocolate earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes.”
– Doris Lessing
I’ve been dreaming in eggplants these past few weeks. I never knew how much I loved this most delicate of nightshades until this year. Every weekend since they came into season we’ve come home from the markets with our bags overflowing with the deep royal purple of eggplants. I tend to favour the long slim Japanese eggplants with their slightly sweeter taste and thinner skin. I’ve made this salad more than a few times lately, and last weekend S made a deliciously smoky baba ganouj that he served with lashings of tahini, a drizzle of sticky-sweet pomegranate molasses, salty fried haloumi, and roughly torn fresh mint.
We’ve been braving a heat wave lately in Brisbane. The kind where the air is molasses-thick and heavy, the sun relentless. Even the mosquitos are too sluggish to attack in force like they usually do at this time of year. We’ve been spending a lot of time at the pool, keeping cool in the sandy shallows and the shade of the tall palm trees. The kids take their nap together in our room in the hope of catching a cross-breeze, but still wake up thirsty and sweat-damp. I’ve been keeping jugs of ice tea in the fridge, and making homemade coconut & mango ice pops for W and T to stave off the late afternoon heat.
On days like these, hot stoves and complex kitchen antics are the last thing on my mind. So I’ve been loving anything that can be made on the grill outside, anything that is quick and light. flavours with a little bite to them. This Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Dressing fits the bill perfectly, and is just so lovely. Grilling the eggplant turns the flesh creamy and tender, with just a hint of char. The sauce is a simple matter of grating and shaking, with plenty of tang. And I always finish it off with thin slices of red hot chilli, because even in the heart of summer I like the burn.
Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Dressing
This is a wonderful way to cook eggplant; easy, light, rich with flavour and heat. I serve it over coconut rice, preferably with this Toasted Coconut & Green Mango Salad on the side.
6 Japanese eggplants
2 – 3 spring onion
4cm fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp tamari
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 – 3 red birdseye chilli
Extra-virgin olive oil, to cook
1 cup coconut rice, cooked
Halve the eggplants lengthways and place them cut side down under a grill on medium-high heat. Brush thoroughly with olive oil and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the skin is starting to brown and crackle. Flip over, brush the cut sides with olive oil, and grill for a further 6 – 8 minutes.
In the meantime, make the sauce in a bowl by whisking together the sesame oil, mirin, tamari, and rice wine vinegar. Finely grate the ginger, add it to the sauce, and stir to combine.
Finely slice both the spring onion and the red chilli.
Divide the coconut rice between three bowls. When the eggplant is ready lay them atop the rice bowls, cut side up. Drizzle with the sauce and finish off by sprinkling over the sesame seeds and thin slices of chilli and spring onion.