It isn’t a good idea to overwhelm eggplant with too much seasoning. I find that the subtle sweetness of Asian eggplant is better preserved with the simplest ingredients. In this case, celery salt and black pepper. And, for a bit of creaminess, grated Parmesan.
I didn’t plan on cooking the eggplant this way. Sam loves eggplants but I’m pretty sure that she’s bored with tortang talong and poqui-poqui by this time. But my eggplant repertoire is quite meagre so it’s always a challenge to come up with new and exciting ways to serve eggplant.
So, earlier today, I was wondering what to do with the lone eggplant that we had. I sliced it and tossed it with olive oil then arranged the slices side by side on a very hot non-stick pan. After a minute or so, I flipped them over and the lightly browned edges inspired me. I wanted to enhance the color and the texture so, instead of sprinkling the eggplants with rock salt, I used celery salt. We have a constant supply of celery salt these days. In the boondock where we live, it’s rather hard to find so Speedy bought a jar of celery seeds instead with the intention of grinding them with rock salt much like the way we make herbed salt. Alex discovered the jar of celery seeds and she has been making celery salt every few days — with a mortar and pestle which she so enjoys using.
Looking at the nicely browned cut side of the sliced eggplants, I reached for the tub of celery salt and started sprinkling them liberally. Next, ground black pepper. I flipped the eggplant slices again after a minute or so to let the cut sides caramelize and brown some more. When I flipped them over for the last time, the color and aroma were so deliciously appetizing that I was more inspired than ever to turn this humble vegetable into something that… you know, the kind of vegetable dish that a hard-core carnivore will dig into with gusto and not miss the meat at all.
I decided to give the browned cut sides of the eggplant slices more textural contrast. I paused for a moment and realized that grated Parmesan would add a light creaminess when the cheese melted. Plus, the aroma of Parmesan will make the eggplant dish smell even better. And, for the final touch, some parsley for color. To complete the dish, spicy fried rice (cooked with cayenne powder and turmeric) with lots of sliced scallions.
Pan-grilled eggplant and spicy scallion fried rice
- 1 eggplant (the long kind)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- celery salt
- ground black pepper
- grated Parmesan
Cut the eggplant into halves horizontally that cut each half vertically into two. Place in a bowl. Pour in the olive oil. Toss to coat every square inch of the eggplant slices.
Heat a non-stick pan. Make sure it's really hot before adding the eggplant slices. If the pan is not hot enough, the eggplants will steam rather than brown and that will make them soggy.
When the pan is hot, place the eggplants side by side, cut side touching the bottom of the pan. Let them cook for a minute or two without disturbing them. This isn't stir frying so you need to overcome the urge to move them around. If you do, they won't brown properly.
Flip the eggplant slices over. Sprinkle with celery salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook for about two minutes.
Flip the eggplant slices again and cook for a minute. Flip them over one last time and sprinkle the cut sides with grated Parmesan. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the eggplant slices finish cooking in the residual heat. The cheese will also soften during this stage.
Finally, sprinkle the eggplant slices with parsley.
Serve at once.