Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Recipe Corner: Melanzane di Graziella

Eggplant Graziella Style

When my godmother Graziella cooked over charcoal, the whole neighborhood knew that she was making dinner. The grown-ups would stand around with a beer or a glass of wine, making jokes and grilling sausages, lamb chops, and pig’s liver. You could watch the plumes of smoke catch the sunlight and disappear through the trees.

Just before dinner, Graziella would come out of the kitchen with a tray full of chicken or game birds ready for grilling. She would get the ball rolling with some eggplant thrown on the grill. As I write this, I can see myself kicking a soccer ball in the street with my playmates as Graziella took over the grill.

This version of her eggplant dish is substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian main course.

We used to have a trick for regulating the heat in a charcoal fire. Often everyone is eager to eat before the fire has burned down enough. If you keep some ashes from previous fires in a can, you can simply sprinkle them over the hot coals and—presto!—your fire cools down. If you need more heat, shake the grate to loosen the ashes and the coals will heat right up again.


6 large Italian (globe) eggplants
Kosher salt
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
Grated zest of ½ orange
Grated zest of ½ lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing eggplant
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice each eggplant lengthwise in half. Using a paring knife, score the flesh about ¼ inch deep in a ½-inch crisscross pattern. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place cut side down in a colander set over a bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for at least 6 hours to drain.

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium.

Rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, dill, oregano, and orange and lemon zests. Whisk in the olive oil.

Season the dressing with salt and pepper and transfer to a small serving bowl or sauceboat.

Brush the surface of each eggplant with olive oil. Place cut side down on the grill and grill over medium heat, turning once, for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the cut surface is golden brown and the skin is wrinkled.

Arrange the eggplant on a serving platter and serve warm, each topped with a spoonful of dressing.