Paired with a glass of sparkling rosé, this elegant appetizer is one of my favorite recipes in my cookbook Par Fork! The Golf Resort Cookbook.
Maybe because it looks like it’s a lot more trouble than it really is.
And the flavors? Wow. Smoky eggplant, creamy goat cheese, fresh herbs and sweet, tangy aged balsamic.
I prefer to salt-soak eggplant to remove its bitterness, especially ones from the grocery store. Older eggplants have larger seeds, which impart a bitter flavor.
It really is a matter of personal preference, though, so you can skip that step if you’ve got a fresh, young eggplant at your disposal.
Of course it tastes fantastic just off the grill, but to save time, you can grill the eggplant a couple hours a head of time. Just leave the grilled eggplant at room temperature until you’re ready to assemble the plates.
If you’re not plating it fresh off the grill, serve it either room temperature, or reheat in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes before slathering it with the herb goat cheese.
Depending upon the size of your eggplant, you may have more than 6 slices (what you need for this recipe).
Grill them all and you can chopped up any leftovers to use in another salad, or put them on a tomato sandwich.
Grilled Eggplant with Herb Goat Cheese & Mixed Greens
1 small (~ 1 pound) eggplant
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbed Goat Cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) quality goat cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1-1/2 cups mixed baby greens
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar* divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the Eggplant
1. Cut both ends off eggplant and discard. Cut remaining eggplant into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Set aside for 30 minutes. Wipe off the beaded moister with paper towels, but do not rinse. Meanwhile, make the herbed goat cheese by mixing all the ingredients (goat cheese through thyme) together until smooth. Set aside at room temperature or keep in the refrigerator if making it far in advance.
2. Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and brush on both sides of eggplant slices. Sprinkle with pepper. Let marinate while grill is heating up.
3. Heat the grill to medium-high (375° to 400°F). Grill eggplant until soft but not mushy, about 4-5 minutes per side. Alternatively, broil for 3 to 5 minutes on each side in a preheated broiler, about 3 inches from the heat source.
Make the Mixed Greens & Assembly
1. Toss mixed greens with 2 teaspoons of aged balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place a slice of grilled eggplant in the middle of 6 salad plates. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese mixture on top of each eggplant. (I spoon leftover cheese on the plate, using 2 espresso spoons to shape into a quenelle, a 3-sided football. Here’s a Fine Cooking video link demonstrating the technique with ice cream…after the ad, of course.)
3. Place 1/4 cup of dressed greens on top of each eggplant. Drizzle remaining balsamic over the top and around the plates.
*If you don’t have a quality, aged balsamic, take 1 cup of whatever balsamic vinegar you do have, and reduce it in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until only 1/2 cup remains. This will thicken and sweeten it by removing some of the water content. Cool before using.