Grilled Japanese Eggplant Salad


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

"During the summer season we buy eggplant from Verrill Farm in Concord; we have a long-standing relationship with them, and their vegetables are great! I grew up picking eggplants and other various vegetables out of my grandmother’s garden. We always ate eggplant, as it is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. My grandmother taught me how to clean vegetables and prepare them the right way, straight from the garden. One of the things we always do with eggplant is roast it until very dark or char it on an open grill to impart a deep, dark, smoky flavor with lots of umami."

Serves 4

3 Japanese eggplants (or other heirloom eggplants if available)
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup labneh (or you can substitute Greek yogurt)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za’atar
½ jalapeño
¼ cup of toasted crushed walnuts
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
herbs of your choice, such as cilantro, dill, basil, or parsley

Prepare a baking sheet or tray lined with a dish cloth or paper towels. Slice the eggplant on the bias, about ¼-inch thick. Lay the pieces of eggplant on the towel-lined tray and season moderately with salt on both sides. Let the eggplant rest for about an hour to soak in the salt and remove excess water.

Light a charcoal grill.

While the eggplant resting and the fire is getting going, mince the garlic and sprinkle a little salt over it, scraping across the cutting board with your knife back and forth to form a paste. Combine the garlic paste with the labneh and lemon; season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Deseed and slice jalapeño as thinly as possible. Pat the eggplant dry, transfer to a bowl, and toss with olive oil. Grill the eggplant as close to the flame as possible, charring it on both sides. Remove the eggplant from the grill and lay it out in a single layer on a platter, sprinkling with the za’atar while it is still warm.

When the eggplant has cooled to room temperature, compose the rest of the dish. Toss the eggplant in a bowl with the yogurt dressing, coating evenly. Arrange the eggplant on a platter and top it with the sliced jalapeño and crushed walnuts. Finish the dish with torn herbs of your choice.