Bondage. Leather. Eggplant. Those were the notes I made for myself about this recipe. Not exactly cryptic. When you grill eggplant, it looks like it’s wrapped in a leathery, tight casing. There’s something kinky about it. Or is it just me? You’ll notice that I am going to ask you to get up close and personal with your eggplant by making slits into its flesh. That’s not only for a cool patterned effect. Eggplant is like a sponge and you want the flesh exposed so that the hot, sticky, vinegary glaze can sneak into all the spots and make the eggplant glisten under the spotlights.
4 large Japanese eggplants (this is not a time for globe eggplants)
1⁄3 cup runny honey
1⁄3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1⁄3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons hot chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as grapeseed)
½ small white or red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
¼ cup toasted peanuts, with skins or without, or cashews, coarsely chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Get your grill going to medium heat.
Starting at the base of each eggplant, halve lengthwise through the stem. Score the flesh in a ¼-inch crosshatch pattern with the tip of a paring knife. (It gives you more control than your chef’s knife.)
Place the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt onto the cut sides. Let the eggplants rest for 15 minutes, so they soak up the salt and release some of their water.
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, combine the honey, vinegar, soy sauce, and chile paste. Simmer and stir (it’ll bubble) until reduced by half (just shy of syrupy), 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer this glaze to a small bowl to cool.
Blot the eggplants dry with a kitchen towel (or paper towel, if you must). It may not look like much water, but it’ll make a difference when you’re grilling the eggplants. Brush both sides of the eggplants with the neutral oil, then grab the glaze and head to the grill. Grill the eggplant, cut-side down, until you see the skin beginning to develop a deep burnished color around the edges, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the eggplants over and let the second side cook for 3 to 4 minutes. While the eggplants cook, using a pastry brush, coat the eggplants with some of the glaze (save some glaze for the finish). Squeeze the side of the eggplants with your tongs to check for doneness. They should be squishy and custardy. Turn the eggplants over one more time, so the glaze can caramelize, about 1 minute.
Transfer the eggplants to a platter and drizzle with some of the reserved glaze or serve it on the side. Scatter the onion, cilantro, and peanuts over the eggplants and squeeze a few lime wedges over the top. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side for squeezing.
“Reprinted from The Cook You Want To Be. Copyright © 2022 Andy Baraghani Photographs copyright © 2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena JonesBooks, an imprint of Random House”
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