A traditional Sicilian "insalata" of eggplant, celery, tomato, capers, and other Italian delectables, this grilled version (sans celery) just seemed like a natural, summertime progression. —PieceOfLayerCake
8 - 10 people
small eggplants (or 2 large), topped and tailed
roma tomatoes, halved
red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved and cored
yellow or sweet onion, peeled and halved
fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and halved, fronds reserved
head of garlic, papery skin removed and top ¼ sliced off
jalapeño (or 2 if you fancy), halved.
extra virgin olive oil, divided
red wine vinegar
freshly cracked black pepper
capers, drained and roughly chopped
sweet basil, torn
pine nuts, toasted
In This Recipe
Prepare a two stage system on your gas or charcoal grill by focusing high heat on one side (such as the back or left side) and low heat on the opposite side. Allow to heat while you prepare your vegetables.
Slice the eggplant into 1" thick slices and place in a large bowl with the tomatoes, peppers, onion, fennel, garlic and jalapeño. Drizzle ? c. olive oil over the vegetables (or more if you have a particularly thirsty eggplant) and toss to coat evenly. Dose a few heavy pinches of salt onto the vegetables and toss again, trying not to break up the delicate vegetables.
Clean the grates of the hot grill with a sturdy, bristled brush and rub them liberally with oil. Have a large, clean sheet/roasting pan handy with some aluminum foil. Wrap the head of garlic in foil and place it in a hot, corner spot. Begin placing your vegetables, cut side down, on the hot side of the grates (in batches if you must). I like to begin with the veggies that are going to take the longest such as the tomatoes, onion and fennel.
Now begins the juggling act. Depending on your grill's tendencies, the veggies you have and your preferences, they will all take different amounts of time to reach doneness. Keep the lid on the grill closed, sit and enjoy a beverage (but do not walk away from your precious veggies), and as they become soft and delightfully charred, remove them to the waiting pan, tenting them with foil. As a basic guide, the veggies should take anywhere from 30 minutes for the garlic, 20 minutes for the tomatoes, onion and peppers, 15 - 20 for the fennel, 10 - 15 minutes for the eggplant, and 5 - 10 for the jalapeño. As the veggies take on color, flip them to evenly distribute the char and move them onto the cooler side to finish their cooking. Don't be afraid to move the veggies as needed, but keep in mind that they become increasingly delicate as they cook
As the veggies cook, whisk together the vinegar, remaining ? c. olive oil, another generous pinch of salt, capers and a few good grinds of black pepper, in a bowl and set aside. After all of the veggies have cooked to your desired doneness (don't be afraid to taste them!), allow them to cool long enough to handle them. Roughly chop the eggplant, tomatoes, onion, fennel and jalapeño, peel some of the char from the peppers by hand and roughly chop as well. Squeeze the soft, sweet garlic cloves into the red wine vinaigrette and mash with a fork. Place the chopped veggies in a bowl or on a plate (if desired, the chopped veggies can be reheated in the tented roasting pan for 5 - 10 minutes on the grill before dressing) and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning before scattering the pine nuts and torn basil over and serving as a starter with toasted, country bread, a vegetable side to meats, poultry and fish, or anything else you can possibly imagine.