Eggplant, so good on its own, is also a culinary chameleon, absorbing herbs and spices to become any number of different dishes. In Romagna, palm-sized slices are steeped in garlic, basil, parsley and olive oil before grilling over hot coals. Eaten either hot or at room temperature, this is one of those simple, but ultimately satisfying dishes that goes with almost anything and is so good eaten on its own.
Menu Suggestions: Serve as a first course or main dish after topping the warm slices with long furls of Parmigiano-Reggiano or young sheep cheese carved out of a wedge with a vegetable peeler.
2 medium eggplants (2 to 2-1/4 pounds), sliced vertically into 1/4-inch thick slices
about 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tightly-packed cup each fresh basil and Italian parsley leaves, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper salt to taste
The eggplant is equally fine hot off the grill, or at room temperature. Refrigeration throws off its balance of tastes and texture, so grill it no more than 4 hours before eating. Marinating the Eggplant: Lightly brush both sides of each eggplant slice with oil. Blend together the garlic, parsley, basil and pepper. Spread a little of the herb blend over each slice. Lay the slice side by side on a large platter, stacking them if necessary. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 2 to 4 hours.
Cooking Eggplant on an Outdoor Grill:
Burn down a charcoal fire (using real wood charcoal briquets if possible), until a white ash has formed on the briquets. Heat should be moderate. Sprinkle the slices with salt. Grill the undrained eggplant slices about 10 minutes, turning once, or until deep golden brown on each side and soft when pierced with a knife. Spoon any seasonings left on the platter over each slice after turning. Transfer the finished slices to a platter and serve.
Cooking Eggplant Indoors:
Grill undrained slices over medium heat on a gridded skillet or stove-top grill, until deep, golden brown on each side.
Spread any seasonings left on the platter over each slice before turning. Do this in several batches unless your cooking surface is large enough to hold all the slices in a single layer. Or preheat broiler, adjusting broiler pan height so eggplant is about 4 inches from the flame. Spread any marinade left in the bowl over the slices, and have them in a single layer. Broil slowly until slices are deep golden brown on each side, and eggplant is soft when pierced.
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