Regardless of botanical classification, eggplant, like the tomato, is a fruit and not a vegetable. In the culinary world however, also like the tomato, it’s treated as a veggie. Regardless of its labeling, grilling is a great technique for preparing eggplant, especially in summer. They’re like a sponge and will absorb anything you expose them to. It might be oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, red pepper, black pepper, or cilantro, whatever your taste buds desire or what is hanging around in the fridge or pantry. Grill them until burnished and tender.
Now it’s time for a bit of creativity. For a first course, top them with a slab of goat cheese and baby arugula dressed with lemon. Slap them between a sliced, toasted Kaiser roll, cover with a squeeze of barbecue sauce, melted jalapeno jack, and a scoop of guacamole for a southwestern vegetarian sandwich. Layer them with sliced ripe tomatoes, pesto, Parmesan, and mozzarella and warm until the cheese oozes. The combinations are endless.
Barbecue Eggplant “Burgers”
- For each burger you will need:
- Two 1/4-inch thick slices of eggplant
- Olive oil for brushing
- Coarse salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Dried oregano
- One 1/4-inch thick slice of Beefsteak tomato
- One 1/8-inch thick slice jalapeño jack cheese
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Barbecue sauce
Preheat your grill (a toaster oven can also be used). Brush each side of each slice of eggplant with olive oil and season with the salt, pepper, and oregano. Grill, turning once, until lightly browned and just cooked. Remove from heat and build your burger: a slice of eggplant topped with the tomato, then the cheese, a light coating of barbecue sauce, and then the other piece of eggplant.
Return eggplant to the grill and warm through until the cheese melts, turning if need be (if your grill is too hot you can either lower the heat, place on the shelf above the grill, or on a cooler part of it). You can serve these on a toasted burger or Kaiser roll or just as they are with a little more barbecue sauce on the side.