I could have steamed or boiled the eggplants and left the bell peppers raw to make this salad but the allure of the grill was irresistible. So the eggplants and bell peppers were grilled over glowing charcoal. Then, I made a sesame-soy dressing for the grilled eggplant and bell pepper salad. Smoky, sweet and tangy with a touch of crunch here and there as your molars crush the sesame seeds. Just lovely.
If charcoal grilling sounds like too much work, an indoor grill, stovetop or electric, will char the vegetables just as well. But the smoky flavor and aroma will be different. If that’s not a big deal to you, go ahead and skip the charcoal grill. But if you want the total experience, well, you know what the solution is.
The sesame-soy dressing is a simple affair. But what gives it a wonderful kick is the addition of toasted sesame seeds. Not lightly toasted, mind you, but toasted until they are dark, the pan pulled from the heat at the last minute to keep the sesame seeds from burning.
- 2 large Asian eggplants
- 2 bell peppers (any color but red ones make the salad so much more colorful)
- 2 tablespoons palm (or vegetable) oil
- 2 plump and juicy tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- For the sesame-soy dressing:
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Split the eggplants lengthwise. Score the cut sides.
- Toss the eggplants and bell peppers in oil.
- Grill the eggplants, about three minutes per side.
- If your grill is large enough, grill the bell peppers on one side (grilling the eggplants and bell peppers at the same time will shorten the cooking time tremendously). Roll the bell peppers occasionally to char as much of the surface as possible. Depending on the size of your bell peppers, grilling them may take anywhere from eight to 10 minutes.
- Cool the eggplants and bell peppers.
- Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and discard. Dice the tomatoes.
- Peel and roughly chop the red onion.
- Make the dressing by stirring together all the ingredients.
- When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop.
- Using a kitchen towel or a paper towel, wipe the bell peppers to remove the skins (or peel off if that's more convenient for you). Cut the peeled bell peppers in half and scrape off the seeds. Dice the grilled bell peppers.
- In a large bowl, toss the eggplants, bell peppers, onion and tomatoes lightly but thoroughly.
- Drizzle in about three tablespoonfuls of the sesame-soy dressing and toss again.
- Serve the grilled eggplant and bell pepper salad with the remaining dressing on the side.
- Optionally, garnish the salad with chiffonaded Thai basil.