Smokey Grilled Eggplant

Collingswood Farmers' Market Find: Petite Italian Eggplants and Zebra Stripped Tomatoes
 Melograno, Melanza, Aubergines, Eggplants - no matter what they are called or what colour you can find, I love them all.  White, purple, lavender with white stripes, reddish, brownish or black, skinny, fat, long or tiny, eggplant is a wonderful vegetable that should be eaten more often.  Now that it is Eggplant Season, it's time to come up with some new ways to treat this fruit/vegetable (technically, it could be a fruit, as it is the fruit of a plant's seed, with seeds inside...) to maximize it to its best potential.  The hotter it is outside, the less I want to cook anywhere.  Onto the grill these petite babies went, with the simplest preparation possible.

Ready for your close-up Mr. Beaker?
I bought a small basket of baby Italian Eggplants; washed them, cut the tops and bottoms off and sliced them lengthwise in half or into thirds if they were big enough. I tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkled a bit of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and a few dashes of smoked paprika.  That's it.  Then I put them onto a hot grill on top of a sheet of aluminum foil, so that they would sear and cook and not burn (which is an issue I have a lot lately with grilling my vegetables, I burn them because I either have the grill too hot or I forget about checking on the veggies!)
"Grilled" Eggplants with oil, salt, pepper & smoked paprika
After a few minutes on each side, 10 minutes maximum, so that the eggplant was cooked through, tender and had caramelized.  Using smoked paprika added that smokey grill flavor.  Cooking them on a sheet of foil ensured that they cooked evenly and didn't burn and using the grill meant that I didn't have to turn on the oven.  You can do these on a sheet pan in the oven, set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit instead of grilling them.  They are done when they are tender and just starting to fall apart, the outer skin should be blistered but not burnt. 

A side note/update - thanks to my friend, SassyScrapper - You don't have to peel them! The skins add colour, and sort of help prevent them (especially when they are small and tender) from falling apart and disintegrating.   If you cannot abide eating the skins, then just scoop or scrape away the sweet, tender eggplant flesh.

Using a sheet of aluminum foil instead of directly on the grilled ensured that the eggplant did not burn but DID Caramelize
Grilling or roasting the eggplants this way adds sweetness and tames the bitterness.  They tasted as sweet as candy and were gone in a flash.  If using larger globe eggplants, cut them into long strips, about an inch thick maximum, so they cook faster.  Turn frequently to cook evenly.  Left-overs can be chopped and tossed into a roasted vegetable pasta salad with a bit of Italian Dressing.  Enjoy!

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