The eggplant from our Farmer’s Market has been so good that it’s all I want to eat right now (well maybe fresh tomatoes, too). I discovered a super easy way to avoid the “sprinkle with salt, then try to wipe enough of it off so it’s not too salty when it’s cooked” thing! Just make a brine in a large bowl with about 5-6 cups warm water to 2 TBSP salt. Slice up that fresh eggplant and drop into the brine for about 30 minutes, remove from brine, wipe off, brush with oil and cook (on the grill, of course). It’s that easy! Why bother with the salt thing? It ensures there will be no bitterness! If the eggplant is fresh it shouldn’t have any bitterness but the brine will remove any trace of it, so I think it’s an important step. Bitter eggplant is definitely not what I ever want to eat!
I have made fresh eggplant with just a brushing of olive oil, garlic and fresh, chopped basil, then grilled and served with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Yum! But, since tomatoes are also peaking in just about everyone’s garden right now, my current obsession is to make a quick, fresh tomato sauce while the eggplants are cooking on the grill and spread that on top the last few minutes of cooking. You can get fancy with some fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of Parmesan if you eat dairy, or top the tomato sauce with some bread crumbs and freshly chopped basil for a vegan version. Either way, make this now, while eggplants are in still in season. I made this for a friend who said she didn’t like eggplant and she is now in love with it 😋.
Recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Sauce
- 2-3 medium eggplant
- 2 TBSP olive oil (garlic-infused is fantastic)
- 1 big clove finely diced garlic
- 1/4 finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs or 1 ball of fresh mozzarella thinly sliced (optional)
- 1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
- 1 basket fresh, organic cherry tomatoes cut in half or 5-6 larger tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- Handful chopped fresh basil
- tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup red wine or water
For the brine:
- In large bowl, pour 5-6 cups warm water. Add 2 TBSP salt and stir until salt dissolves.
- Slice eggplant into 1/2 slices (long or short, it doesn’t matter).
- Put all slices into the brine, then put a plate on top to keep them under the water. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
For Tomato Sauce:
- In medium saucepan, heat 2 tsp olive oil, add garlic and on low heat cook for a minute or two, until fragrant and soft.
- Add tomatoes and basil and cook, on low heat for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down and release their juices.
- Add wine (or water) and continue to simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. It should be saucy consistency but you do NOT want the tomatoes to completely break down.
- Season with salt and pepper, turn off heat and let sit while eggplant finishes grilling.
- Heat your grill to about 375 degrees. Remove eggplant from brine & wipe off with clean towel. Place them on a baking sheet, then brush the tops with the 2 TBSP olive oil/chopped garlic mixture. Turn them over and brush oil on other side.
- Place eggplant directly on hot grill, close lid and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes, until it starts to brown and you see grill marks. Turn each piece over and grill on second side about 10 more minutes, until nice and soft all over.
- Remove eggplant slices from grill and place on a large baking sheet. Top with the tomato sauce, breadcrumbs and or cheese, if using. Place entire baking sheet back on hot grill, close the lid and let it cook another 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is hot and cheese is melted. Remove from grill.
- You can serve the eggplant slices over a bed of fresh greens for a nice Eggplant Salad or just a big plate of the eggplant slices and tomato sauce with a garnish of fresh basil is fabulous!