Gathering guests around the grill is an easy way to entertain … but what if some of your guests are vegetarians? Providing a barbecue menu that your vegetarian guests will enjoy is simple when using eggplant as the main course. The beauty of including vegetarian items on the grill is that their main dish can be served as a side dish for your guests who eat meat.
Eggplant is easy to grill and can be used in a variety of ways to create a satisfying dish for your vegetarian guests. It’s high in dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium and many antioxidants. Improperly prepared eggplant can be slimy or bitter, but if you prepare and cook eggplant correctly, it’s delicious. And grilling makes it even more flavorful.
I like to first prep the eggplant using a salt-extraction method to remove any bitter liquid. This technique guarantees that the eggplant will be crispy and brown on the outside, and creamy and sweet inside.
First, cut the eggplant lengthwise into thick slices, or you also can cut it into cubes and use them to make kabobs. Layer the pieces of eggplant in a colander and salt them generously. Place the colander on top of a bowl to catch the liquid the eggplant will give off.
Next, place paper towels on top of the eggplant. Then weigh everything down to extract as much liquid as possible. You can use heavy cans wrapped in foil, or a heavy pot with a few cans inside of it. Let the eggplant drain for about an hour.
When you remove the eggplant from the colander, you’ll notice that a lot of water has been released from the vegetable. This is a good thing. That means that if the eggplant had a bitter flavor, it has been removed. Rinse the slices and pat them dry with paper towels. Now your eggplant is ready for the grill.
You can serve grilled eggplant in a variety of ways – as a main-course item in thick slices, along with grilled bell peppers or mushrooms; cut into cubes and served as part of a veggie kabob; piled on grilled slices of bread to make a panini; or tossed with hot or cold pasta. Any way you serve grilled eggplant, it’s delicious.
Most vegetarians prefer that their food be cooked separately from the place on the grill where the meat is prepared. Clean your grill and prepare the vegetarian menu items first, or if you have a large grill, make sure that the meat and the vegetables are separate.
- 3 large eggplants
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut in half length-wise, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut in half length-wise, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Clean the grill and lightly oil the grate with a food-safe paper towel. Heat the charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. You’ll know the grill is ready if you can hold your hand about an inch above the grill for 3 to 4 seconds.
- Drain the eggplant and pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Lay the eggplant and the bell peppers on a large baking sheet or tray. Brush both sides of the eggplant and the peppers with olive oil, and sprinkle both sides with the Italian Seasoning, pepper, and the garlic and onion powders.
- Lay the vegetables on the grill. Close the lid if using a gas grill and cook until grill marks appear, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until grill marks again appear and the vegetables are tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.