Auto-Smoked Eggplant Salad

April 26, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Eric Liftin
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Enjoying a quick counter lunch in the summer of 2019 at The Smoking Goat in Shoreditch I had a revelation eating the smoked eggplant: Eggplant is an auto-smoking vegetable. When you smoke meat, you need a source of smoke, like burning wood. When you put eggplant on the fire, its own skin chars and infuses the pulp with smokey deliciousness. Then you can easily peel off the charred skin and enjoy a tender, flavor-loaded, savory vegetable that may as well be a meat.

This Thai-inflected recipe is inspired by what I ate that afternoon. I've never seen the recipe, but this gets at the sensational merging of flavors: smokey savory, bright acidic, sweet, herbal, and spicy. Feel free to vary proportions as you like. It's surprisingly easy to pull together. You can grill the eggplant on charcoal or get pretty much the same results on the flame of your gas range.

At one slim eggplant per person, it's a light meal with a side or two (rice?) or an accompaniment to something else like satay.
Eric Liftin

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 2 generous tablespoons)
  • 1 lime, juiced (juice only)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (preferably palm or turbinado)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili crisp (optional, to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thai basil (or Italian), chopped
  • 4 Chinese or Japanese eggplants
  • 4 eggs, medium-boiled (firm/moist yolks)
  • 4 handfuls mixed greens or whatever lettuce base you like
  1. Combine in a medium bowl ginger, shallot, lime, olive oil, soy sauce, fish sauce (if using), sugar, vinegar, salt, and chili crisp/paste. Stir and let this marinate while you cook.
  2. Pierce each eggplant a couple times with a skewer and place them in the microwave. Cook on high for 1:30. Shuffle the positions and cook again for 1:30. Repeat for an additional minute if necessary until they are evidently hot and give a little to finger pressure (be careful if they are super hot!).
  3. Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Cover the pan and heat on high. As soon as it boils, hit a 5-minute timer, reduce to medium heat, and set cover so that steam can escape. When timer expires, fish out the eggs with a slotted spoon or spider and immerse in ice water to arrest cooking. While you're waiting for the boiling and cooking, you can continue the step below.
  4. Put a grill-like accessory, like an oven rack or heavy-gauge drying rack on a range burner and turn to high. Place the eggplants on the grill using heat-proof tongs. Tend them carefully, rotating and shifting them, until all sides are blackened with char. It's not enough simply to cook the eggplant -- you want serious char. When they are done (takes about 5-6 minutes, depending on your burner power) let them cool on a rack.
  5. Arrange the greens on each plate (you can plate this individually or combine on a serving platter if you prefer).
  6. Peel the charred skin from each eggplant, leaving the tender, limp pulp attached to the stem. Place the denuded eggplant on the bed of greens.
  7. Peel the eggs. You can either chop each egg into chunks or simply break it over the eggplant (as they do in Shoreditch).
  8. Add the cilantro and basil to the dressing and stir to combine. Spoon the dressing over each serving of egg, eggplant, and greens. Enjoy!

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