Charred on the outside, raw on the inside was my destiny. Everything changed with two discoveries by Sally: this lusciously spiced ginger-miso sauce and microwaving eggplant slices before they hit the grill. You cannot mess this up, no way, no how. (Why it never occurred to me, I’ll never know.)
Bed down those slices on the crisp grilled kale (another revelation) and you have a sensational vegan main dish. This dish is good hot off the grill or at room temperature.
Cook to Cook: There are hundreds of versions of miso (fermented soybean pastes from Japan). They each have their own distinctive taste, though they are generally broken down into light or dark varieties. Generally, the lighter the miso the sweeter it tastes. Misos are inexpensive, they keep a long time in the refrigerator, and they bring a lot of bang for the buck. So pick some up, and put them to work in soups and dressings.
This dish is good hot off the grill or at room temperature.
1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the miso, mirin, rice wine vinegar, ginger, sugar and vegetable oil together until well blended. Thin with warm water to make a sauce that drips slowly from a spoon. You want to be able to brush it easily on the eggplant slices.
2. Place the eggplant slices on a plate in a single layer and microwave 4 to 5 minutes until just tender. Repeat until all the slices have been microwaved. Brush one side of each eggplant slice with the miso sauce and set aside.
3. Prepare a charcoal grill for one-zone direct grilling, or preheat a gas grill to medium. Allow the charcoal fire to burn down to a white ash, or moderate heat.
4. In a large bowl, toss the kale leaves with a generous amount of oil so that they are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the whole leaves — 2 or 3 at a time — on the grill, and grill until crispy and lightly charred on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. They cook quickly, so keep a close eye on them. Place the kale on a serving platter as the base for the eggplant.
5. Oil the grill and place the eggplant slices miso side down. Baste the top side of the slices with the sauce and cook 12 to 15 minutes total, basting and turning carefully with a spatula throughout the grilling. Take your time; the slower they cook, the more sauce they will absorb. Continue grilling until the eggplant is a deep golden brown on each side and soft when pierced with a knife. Place them directly on the kale leaves, spoon any leftover sauce on top and serve.
From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.
"If there's a set of values in Senegal, teranga would be the most important one," says chef Pierre Thiam, author of Senegal. "It's the way you treat the guest."