Seriously Simple: Colorful grilled sweet peppers and eggplant brighten the table
Imagine a platter of vibrant red and sunny yellow sweet peppers and grilled purple eggplant slices, with fresh basil leaves as a garnish. This colorful vegetable mix is my fallback summer dish, for lunch and dinner. A large platter of these on a buffet table or served family-style can become the centerpiece for your meal. Serve this with any grilled meat, fish or poultry. If you have leftovers, there are many ways to include these in other dishes.
This dish shows off the vegetables’ exquisite simplicity when grilled. It’s a basic recipe that you can put your own signature on. Add sliced zucchini or wheels of cut corn cobs if you like a larger array of vegetables. Feel free to drizzle these colorful gems with your favorite vinaigrette or the simple drizzle in the recipe. Add a sprinkling of fresh herbs of your choice, crumbled goat or feta cheese or shards of thinly sliced Parmesan cheese to finish the platter. You can arrange the veggies in different patterns if you wish. Think of this as a painting you are creating, and have fun with it. Warm, crusty bread is a nice accompaniment.
Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplant, Olive Oil Balsamic Drizzle
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 yellow bell peppers
- 4 Japanese eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- Olive oil for brushing the eggplant
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- Fresh basil leaves
1. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the peppers until charred on all sides, about 7 to10 minutes. Transfer to a paper bag and fold over the top to close tightly. Let steam for 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips. (I use a pizza cutter to do this.) Reserve.
2. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill on each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the eggplant slices have grill marks and feel soft. Remove to a plate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Arrange the eggplant slices in the center of a large shallow platter, overlapping if necessary, leaving room on the outside area of the platter. Spoon the peppers into groups around the eggplant. Drizzle the top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and garnish with the basil leaves.
Make ahead: The dish may be prepared through Step 2 up to one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. This can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Leftover peppers can be pureed with some olive oil and a touch of balsamic for a silky sauce that’s great over chicken, shrimp or pasta.
- Use any remaining vegetables as a base for a chopped salad. Chop the vegetables up, and add chopped arugula and romaine lettuce. Dress with your favorite vinaigrette. Add cooked chicken or shrimp for a more substantial main course salad.
- Puree leftover vegetables with vegetable broth and fresh herbs and chill. Serve as a cold soup.
- Use any remaining peppers and eggplant for sandwiches.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)