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Grilled eggplant gets saucy with chermoula in this healthy recipe

Move over brats and burgers. Grilled eggplant is ready in minutes, and tastes like a party when you garnish it with a flavor-packed chermoula sauce. Contributed by Kellie Hynes
Move over brats and burgers. Grilled eggplant is ready in minutes, and tastes like a party when you garnish it with a flavor-packed chermoula sauce. Contributed by Kellie Hynes

During Labor Day weekend festivities, my veggies will not be relegated to ranch dressing dunk tanks and mayonnaise-laden salads. Instead, I’m elbowing up to the grill with eggplant and a recipe for fresh chermoula that burger-and-brat folks will also enjoy.

Grilled eggplant tastes like a treat. It’s smoky and substantial, with a tender texture that feels indulgent. And it couldn’t be faster or easier to make.

There’s no need to salt or brine your eggplant. Don’t even peel it. Just slice your aubergine lengthwise into ½-inch “steaks,” brush both sides ever so lightly with olive oil, and grill for 3-ish minutes per side. Done.

If there’s any trick to working with eggplant, it’s knowing that that smaller eggplants generally taste less bitter. I like 2-pound eggplants, which are large enough to yield hearty pieces without an aftertaste.

You can serve your grilled eggplant plain, drizzled with tahini, or chopped up in a modified caprese salad with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But if you have a handful of herbs in your garden, a chermoula sauce elevates the eggplant with a verdant flash of flavor.

Chermoula is to cilantro as pesto is to basil (and chimichurri is to parsley). It’s a thick sauce/marinade/dip/sandwich spread made from the freshest herbs you can find, whirled in a food processor and kissed with a splash of olive oil. Unlike pesto, chermoula is traditionally made without nuts and cheese, making it an ideal choice for guests with food sensitivities.

In this recipe, the grassy cilantro is rounded out with parsley and brightened with mint leaves. For all three herbs, you can leave most of the leaves on their stems. Just cut away any thick shoots. Traditional chermoula is seasoned with minced garlic, chili peppers and dried herbs. Many recipes call for sweet paprika. Here, I suggest smoked paprika to complement the grilled eggplant.

In a step that takes just seconds but rewards you with exponentially savory flavor, cumin seeds are toasted in a dry skillet before you throw them in the food processor bowl with the other ingredients. A little olive oil binds the sauce together. I use less oil than usual to keep the fat content in check. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a little water or oil until it reaches your desired consistency.

Now that you have the hang of making chermoula, look for other opportunities to add it to your repertoire. This weekend, offer it as a condiment for those burgers and brats. Chermoula makes weeknight chicken and fish feel fancy, and works as an easy book club appetizer when drizzled over goat cheese. You can also use it as a fresh dressing for grilled vegetables, such as carrots, squash or asparagus. The seasons may be changing, but grilled veggies will always taste like summer.

Move over brats and burgers. Grilled eggplant is ready in minutes, and tastes like a party when you garnish it with a flavor-packed chermoula sauce. Contributed by Kellie Hynes
Move over brats and burgers. Grilled eggplant is ready in minutes, and tastes like a party when you garnish it with a flavor-packed chermoula sauce. Contributed by Kellie Hynes

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