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Eggplants pt. 2 — Grilled Eggplant with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

October 2, 2008

(This post appears courtesy of Food Junta, and it also appears on their blog.)

I love eggplant, but if I’m going to be eating it, then give me lavender ones, white ones, striped ones, small truly egg-shaped ones or ones that are long and curvy and look almost like purple peppers. What are these purple pepper looking eggplant, you ask? White eggplant, you ask? Yes, reader. Eggplant does not have to be dark purple and globular and often relatively flavorless. Eggplant can, in fact, be delicious, and worthy of the most simple treatment, showcasing it as the centerpiece of the dish itself, instead of just a vehicle for cheese and tomato sauce (eggplant parm) or covered in soy sauce (every stir fry ever).

I’m talking about none other than Japanese eggplant (also called Chinese eggplant), which unlike the eggplant you may be used to (supermarket, or American, eggplant) comes in a variety of shapes and colors, and which I find both more tender and more flavorful than its lunky brethren. Japanese eggplant seem, to my eyes at least, more delicate and also sleeker, plus, did I mention this already, I really do think they taste better.

This recipe could not be easier, or more delicious and refreshing. I made it for the same bbq that Kevin brought his eggplant caviar to, for a little take on eggplant two ways. It took about ten minutes to put this whole thing together, and another ten minutes to grill, though I would suggest letting the yogurt-mint sauce sit for an hour, as I did, not entirely intentionally, but mostly because the grill was too full. Letting the sauce sit helps the flavors all meld together, and the yellow color – to my eyes at least – seemed to even deepen slightly.

The end product (after all of 20 minutes of relatively inconsequential work, 10 minutes of which mostly involved drinking a beer and chatting in the vicinity of the grill) was great. The sesame oil gave the eggplant a subtle richness, and the sauce, a zestier take on raita, was a perfect complement. And don’t just take it from me — they were gone once they were cool enough to eat. (At that point Kevin’s dip had already been decimated.) You could grill any number of other vegetables along with the eggplant – peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms – all prepared in the same way. The eggplant, though, is plenty tasty to stand alone.

Grilled Eggplant with Yogurt-Mint Sauce
(Adapted from Bon Appétit)

Ingredients

– 1 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat Stonyfield, you probably don’t want to use non-fat)
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon curry powder
– 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
– 1-2 lbs. eggplant, preferably Japanese/Chinese eggplant, in a variety of sizes and colors; cut the spherical ones crosswise into 1-inch-thick rounds; cut the longer ones into strips
– 1/4 cup sesame oil
– 2 tablespoons ground coriander

1. Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. If possible, try to make at least one hour ahead, and keep, covered and refrigerated.)

2. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Toss eggplant with sesame oil, coriander, salt, and pepper to coat. Grill until slightly charred, about 5 minutes per side, maybe less. Watch the eggplant carefully, especially the longer strips – these babies cook fast.

3. Serve with yogurt-mint sauce.

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