grilled eggplant with caponata salsa

I spend a good lot of my spring, summer and fall weekends on my friend Jocelyn’s roof. Not only do we get to catch up with friends, drink an unthinkable amount of pink wine and/or Pimm’s cups, shoot awesome pictures of sunsets, Joc has a consummately awesome grill, allowing us all of the summer deliciousness we’re deprived of in our Manhattan apartment. It’s a good deal if there ever was one.

However, some weekends Jocelyn goes out of town. And occasionally, Alex and I have family or other friends to go see. And sometimes, we go a whole two or three weeks without making it onto Joc’s roof, and it makes us very sad. Because we miss the grill.

caponata salsa

Which brings me up to the purchase that broke the Smitten Kitchen’s back: our new grill pan. The history of this is that pretty much any time I ever say to Alex, “ooh, look at this [kitchen item]! We should get it!” his standard response is “That’s great, honey. But where will we put it?” To which I respond, “Blah, blah, blah… We’ll FIND a place.” And you know what? We usually do. (Please don’t ask about the wedding cake pans in Alex’s closet. It’s a best-not-touched-on subject.)


But this grill pan doesn’t fit anywhere. And it weighs a metric ton. And it might literally be the first time in Smitten Kitchen history that I will admit that Alex was right: maybe we should have figured out where it went before I bought it. Right now it lives on the floor under the single cart/counter with god-knows-what and its good friend, I’d-rather-not-think-about-it. This is not an ideal long-term solution.

eggplant in the grill pan

But it does save us when we’re itching for a barbecue and lack an invitation for one. I was going to save this grilled eggplant with caponata salsa, a delicious Dorie Greenspan recipe from a Bon Appetit summer entertaining article, for a real, outdoor barbecue but once Alex brought home an eggplant from the farmers market, it was so pretty, I couldn’t wait any longer.

grilled eggplant with caponata salsa

And you know what? I’m glad we didn’t. It was so awesome cooked on an indoor grill, I can only imagine how amazing it would be with real wood smoke and charcoals under it. And the “salsa”–hold me–it’s so good. So unbelievably tasty that I would say it was a third gone before we even got to eating it for dinner. This recipe is a home run, no matter where you grill it. It might even alone justify the purchase of something a little too big for your tiny kitchen’s britches. Maybe. I mean, I wouldn’t push it or anything. Uh, until next time.

grilled eggplant with caponata salsa

Eggplant, previously: Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree, Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad

One year ago: Summer Berry Pudding

Grilled Eggplant with Caponata Salsa
Adapted, barely, from Dorie Greenspan for Bon Appetit, August 2008

Serves 6

1 12-ounce container grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia or Maui onion
5 large green olives, pitted, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano plus sprigs for garnish (woops, we forgot this)
1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 13/4 pounds), trimmed

Mix tomatoes, celery, onion, olives, chopped oregano, capers, garlic, and crushed red pepper in medium bowl. Whisk red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in small bowl; pour over tomato mixture and toss to coat. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. (Caponata can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Peel eggplant lengthwise to create alternating 2-inch-wide intervals of peeled and unpeeled skin. Cut eggplant crosswise into 6 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Brush eggplant slices with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant slices until slightly charred and very tender when pierced with knife, about 8 minutes per side.

Place one grilled eggplant slice on each of six plates. Spoon caponata over, garnish with oregano sprigs, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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64 comments on grilled eggplant with caponata salsa

  1. Oh dear, that looks very good.
    As a girl with a woefully tiny kitchen as well, my beloved grill pan is currently between the oven and the wall. I feel bad for it, but really?, you don’t know what a tiny kitchen is until you double think buying the large roll of paper towels cause there just isn’t counter space for it!

  2. Tammy

    You know, I have stayed away from eggplant because of the texture. But, I think grilling it would be brilliant. I am definitely going to try this and I think I will try it on my George Forman. Beautiful photos. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. clayton

    my question is: how do you keep these things clean? you’re not supposed to scrub cast iron, right? i recently threw out my reversible stove-top grill/griddle because i grilled chicken on it one day with a honey bbq glaze, and after weeks of trying could not pry the burnt bits of glaze from the grill’s clutches. perhaps i was simply using an inferior version of the pan? i feel like i see food networkers use the things all the time, yet they never gripe about how hard it is to get them clean. maybe that’s because they have other people that do it for them…..

    1. Helen in CA

      Scrubbing cast iron is fine. It’s the soap that’s the concern, meaning just don’t use soap. So scrub away. I use a metal scrubby. (I’m assuming that the pan is well seasoned.) You could put some salt on to add to texture as you’re scrubbing.

      When done, heat the pan and swipe some oil onto it (very very light coating). When the pan is cold, then wipe it off. That adds to the seasoning.

  4. Ashley

    I was wondering about the technique for using the grill pan. I have one and have repeatedly tried grilling vegetables on it (including eggplant) and everything always seems to end up sort of dried out. What kind of heat did you use? Thanks so much!

  5. Lindsey

    Deb, I love that you also sometimes forget ingredients are included in a recipe! I am always embarrassed when I go to post a recipe and realize that I didn’t include an ingredient and I didn’t even realize it until that point. And then it’s always a toss-up whether to say that’s part of my “adaptation” or if I should just list the ingredient like I never forgot it. ;-)

  6. That where-will-we-put-it conversation? That occurs, verbatim, in our household every time I mention something we could get for the kitchen. So good to know I’m not alone. :)

  7. AAAh phantom dishwashers! Wouldn’t that be a mitzvah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HO HUM just got to do all the cooking and cleaning up on my own! (unless I have a hairy fit like tonight and storm out of the kitchen – then someone else HAS to get the job done!) Oh I have eggplants in my fridge. Might have to whip that up some time soon! Great pix!

  8. I’ve been dying to know how well that pan works. Thanks for sharing the info on it (and the recipe – YUM).

    Oh, and don’t beat me, but I’m telling everyone I read about this – my husband signed up to try to raise $2400 for MDA. We’ve got someone who will match it if he reaches that point….please, please consider donating or passing on to your friends. Even small donations add up.

  9. Ah, oh, got it! I have my panini grill below the cabinet, roll-out thing. Down on the floor, sharing space with… oh cool wire baskets for serving bread or showcasing fruit.

    I have been WONDERING about those indoor grill pans! So, yes? It is worth it? Is it comparable?

  10. Kate

    Wow, I definitely have an eggplant in my kitchen right now! We were planning on roasting it and doing baba ghanoush, but… that might have to wait =]

  11. Deb, first time poster, long time admirer.

    I sent my fiance your solutions for an eggplant and he jumped for joy after finding one he could properly do (I’m not saying he’s Alex, but I will definitely try to mold his cooking towards more adventurous, or at least, possible.)


    Eggplant is so misunderstood.

  12. We have the same grill pan (in white) and I absolutely love it. Use it all the time. It’s wonderful for grilling fish and it’s the best for making small shish-ka-bobs. I don’t know how we got along without it. But it was so small I had to buy a double grill pan that has a flat grill for pancakes on one side, and the striped grill on the other. You know, for company. :-)

  13. Clayton, the grill pan is actually pretty easy to clean. You get a teenage son that tries to pick a lock with your henkels paring knife and cuts off the tip exactly the same size as in between the raised grill strips. You then run the knife through each of the valleys, peeling off the burned on residue. You can use water on this cast iron. All you have to do is reseason the pan with a bit of oil in the oven for a few minutes. Easy Peasy. Oh, if you don’t have a teenage boy, I can lend you mine.

  14. Becky

    Ditto Jamaila. Same pan, same storage solution. Though, we don’t have an exhaust fan so a recent grilling, that became very smoky very fast, led to 20 minutes of all smoke detectors blaring and my landlord calling up the stairs to make sure his house wasn’t buring down.

  15. Paula D

    I do so much w/ eggplant it’s not even funny. I buy one a week almost. I grill it, I cube it up and make a fabulous pasta sauce with it. I make fried eggplant sticks or parmigiana….but not w/ a lot of marinara or mozzarella….. sometimes we eat the fried eggplant w/ just a shake of grated parmesan cheese! I stuff them too w/ ground lamb. There are a number of things you can do.

  16. RachelM

    On Good Eats the other day, Alton Brown suggested sprinkling the grill pan with some kosher salt before using it. Apparently, the salt stays down in between the raised parts and soaks up the grease that drips down. Then you just wipe out the crud after the pan cools. If you are worried about the salt burning, as he said “People, it’s a rock!” i haven’t tried it, but sounds like it might work.

    I love my reversible grill/griddle pan. Sometimes it is a pain to clean out the grooves, especially if I have let it sit overnigth (oops!). I use a sponge with a scrubbie and soap – I know its not the proper thing to do, but gotta get it clean!

  17. Paula D

    Clayton, one more thought about your grill pan……….. I lightly oil mine before putting it away. Then when I need to use it, I wipe it w/ a paper towel, then give it a good spray w/ PAM. Try that, it may help you the next time. I use terriyaki suace a lot, especially w/ salmon or chicken and the juices from that type of sauce used to stick like crazy.

    Oh, sorry, a clean up tip………remove the cooked food, and while the pan is still raging hot, squeeze/scatter dish detergent on it, fill it with really hot water and let it sit while you’re eating dinner. This helps too.


  18. Nancy

    Love the site! You may have just convinced me to try eggplant again. I’ve even got a gas grill built into my cooktop and I’d rather use my grill pan on the other 2 burners! I’ve got the Lodge cast iron grill/griddle. As for cleaning it, just use hot, hot, hot water…no soap, just screaming hot water. Let it run down the grill for a minute or two, then take your brush or scrubby thing out and clean it up. It really does help with cleanup to oil it when it’s hot, prior to cooking on it. To store it, I sit it on it’s long edge and slide it into a cabinet next to my canisters. Fits perfectly in a standard 24″ base cabinet and only takes up about 1/2″ of space.

  19. deb

    Hi everyone — We had some crazy site issues this morning, and had to restore it from the backup, so we lost any comments that were left between 8 a.m. and noon! We’re terribly sorry. But we’re also so incredibly relieved that we happened to have done a full backup this morning. If you knew how rarely we used to do them (believe me, that’s changed now!) you’d be amazed at our good luck.

    If you left a comment, please leave it again! I would be sad to miss it.

  20. Dawn in CA

    Just curious why you didn’t use the Mario Batali grill and press instead of a new grill pan? Or is the grill/press what you used for these eggplants? In any event, the result looks just delish, another winning recipe.

  21. deb

    I did use the grill pan, the base of it. I simply didn’t use the press lid, but if anyone is thinking about getting the pan, I think that’s a big selling point: grilling and/or paninis!

  22. eg

    Such a pretty grill pan! I think it was necessary, regardless of any storage issues.

    The eggplant looks great. Mine always seems to take forever to cook. Maybe the grill pan method is the answer.

  23. eck

    Deb (and other small-NYC-apartment-dwellers) — I’m not sure if it’s our wimpy kitchen exhaust fan or what, but we can’t seem to use our beloved Lodge grill pan without smoking up everything in our home, setting off alarms, and causing general eye-watering, coughing and frustration. That’s with olive oil, canola, you name it. It’s awful because cast-iron-grilled veggies are the best — how do you avoid this drama?

    Love, love, love this site, BTW!

  24. deb

    It’s funny mention that because you can actually see the tiny plumes of smoke in the fourth picture. That said, I could imagine this being a real problem but it never got very bad on this dish–just that bit in the beginning, I suppose until the eggplant really sealed and began caramelizing. Perhaps we lucked out!

  25. I just found your website while in search of a recipe for Zucchini Bread, having a ten-pound zucchini from the garden and nothing else to do with it.
    The recipe was fantastic, and throughout my time in the kitchen last night I imagined my own photo ops, in the vain of SmittenKitten.
    I go grocery shopping on Tuesday – I’m just trying to decide which recipe of yours I’m making next.

  26. Oh, I have an eggplant in my refrigerator right now…
    Thanks for the wonderful idea. That’s why I love your site- I always end up trying something new because you make things I wouldn’t normally gravitate to.
    ~The Cat’s Pajamas

  27. Sarah in LA

    I have an 8 x 8 Le Creuset grill pan that I use basically to grill vegetables only. It’s too messy to grill meats on in my opinion – i switched to a small propane grill on my balcony for that.

    I scared myself once by putting the grill pan on my electric burner on a high setting…..the enamel melted and stuck to the element until it had cooled down a bit!! I figured it could handle high heat, but I guess not.

  28. SusanPrincess

    Try grapeseed or peanut oil for your grill–they have highter flash points, so can get much hotter before smoking, unlike olive or canola oils, which smoke at a much lower temperature. (The grapeseed has health benefits like olive, and is inexpensive at Trader Joe’s.)

  29. These look delicious, and such a lovely presentation. I will be sure to give this recipe try, as I’m always up for new dishes including eggplant—it’s one of my husband’s favorites!

  30. Heather

    Oooh, what’s a Maui onion and did you find it at your grocery store or the market?

    This is gorgeous and looks delicious.

  31. Basically…. this is the first time in my life that I don’t have to worry about where we’ll put something kitchen-wise. We finally moved to a new apartment in Brooklyn with a ton of cabinet space…. so I can buy a blender and a food processor and a toaster and…..
    Anyways, your eggplant looks delicious and I am inspired to try this either on my grill OR on the grill pan.

  32. wes

    Okay, I live in a house, and I don’t have enough room for all the kitchen stuff I want. And no, I don’t have tons of gadgets, but just a very small kitchen, and I don’t even want tons of stuff. I’m happy with just the basics, and I have actually gotten rid of a lot of things that I thought I wanted and then never used. I use a cast iron griddle instead of a grill pan, still weighs a ton and you don’t get the nice lines, but still good results and it doubles for making eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, tortillas (small ones), etc.

  33. LyB

    Yes, I’ve had that same conversation with my better half. Plates, glasses, panini grill, where am I going to put all of it? I usually find some place to hide it all. I’m crafty like that. That dish looks delicious, I’m always looking for new ways to serve eggplants, this is great.

  34. Ouiser

    Cast Iron = NO SOAP!! Just scrub with hot water and dry well. If you’re using a grill pan (vice grill) and you’ve some something really sticky, cover with water and bring to a boil, let it sit til just barely cool enough to put you hands in and then srcub.

  35. SaraQ

    This was delicious! It’s made a great appetizer. Not only was it beautiful but very flavorful as well. I only have the 8×8 LeCruset grill pan so it took a few rounds but completely worth it.

  36. Sunny

    You know, I have held onto my apartment for dear life because of my large, weird, 70’s kitchen. I don’t know what I’d do without counterspace for my rice cooker, crock pot, standmixer, food processor, blender, and juicer. I know, I am a jerk and I need to be stoned to death with kitchen appliances. I love your blog, it’s inspired me to cook more. But it’s also inspired me to attempt one of those terrible, terrible 3 layer cakes. Shame on you.

  37. tibik

    This looks so wonderful! I have one question though- is the ratio of the Olive Oil to red wine vinegar really 1:3? Is the dressing for the salsa supposed to be tart?
    Thank you.

  38. Bought all the ingredients for this (all of which were beautiful for late March, I should add), and then it snowed 5″ today. Can’t win. Going with the indoor grill route instead. Still itching with excitement.

    Tiny FYI (I hate being this person), but this isn’t labeled under your Eggplant section on the Recipes page. I see it already had 5 tags, might be why, but just thought I’d let you know.

  39. wendy

    I just made this on a camping trip. Put goat cheese on the grilled eggplant before the copanata. People were eating it off my plate including kids. So very good!

  40. Susan V

    I found this while looking online for options to eggplant parmigiana because I didn’t have all of the ingredients and the time (or patience) to bake anything. The salsa is wonderful and such a fresh way to serve eggplant.
    My family is picky with the skin on though. Is it wrong to peel all of the skin off?
    I’m actually making this as I type, but wanted to thank you for this fresh approach!

  41. I’m in love with eggplant and especially grilled eggplants are so tasty and has beautiful smell. If there is no grill around, pan grill is a life saver.

    I’m so hungry right know and I can eat my monitor, thanks for this recipe and I’ll definitely try this.

  42. This is truly a perfect way to grill eggplant – my husband and I were skeptical with such thick slices but they turned out soft and delish. The slices do look dry on the outside, but don’t let that fool you. We used a tahini-yogurt-tomato sauce instead of salsa and served alongside with pork chops and winter squash. I think we’re going to be grilling a lot more eggplant from now on. Too bad cold weather is coming!