Grilled eggplant

This grilled eggplant will not disappoint and is ready in minutes for the perfect summer meal. 

The colors of local produce continue to astound me, in their pretty piles just calling my name.

It’s easy to over-purchase. If you do, make extra for a neighbor in need; walk to their door and say hello with that helping.

This week, we continue to utilize the abundance of our local farmers, including your own backyard. My pandemic planting has yielded crispy cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.

Don’t pass over the Japanese eggplant at the market. I like it even better than regular eggplant because it’s not as bitter.

The soft-boiled eggs came from my chickens, my other quarantine project. Rosie and Bella are both laying now, and Pepper will be soon. Chickens are weird and hilarious and have made me laugh out loud multiple times.

Back to the food: You’ve probably noticed I love umami and spreads of various bites. I've included recipes for both.

Everything can be grilled this summer — this grilled eggplant will not disappoint and is ready in minutes. I love using my grill pan on the stove top as I am currently cooking small batches and hate standing outside getting devoured by mosquitoes.

The cucumber salad and eggplant will last a couple of days in the fridge. I like to eat both at room temperature for best flavor. The snack spread is a clever template for one or can be multiplied for your whole family. It’s fun swapping out elements to satisfy everyone’s cravings.

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Thai cucumber salad

For the salad:

2 cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, then sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 a small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, crushed red chili flakes

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons coconut or canola oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed

1-2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup or favorite sweetener

To make the dressing: Whisk the lime juice, oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and your desired amount of sweetener together in a small bowl until combined. (Or add all ingredients to a mason jar, cover and shake vigorously until combined.)

Combine the cucumbers, green onions, red onion, cilantro, mint and peanuts in a large bowl. Drizzle evenly with the dressing, then toss until combined. Reserve or make extra dressing to drizzle onto grilled eggplant or other main dish.

Serve immediately, garnished with your desired toppings. Or cover and refrigerate for up to one day, then serve the salad chilled.

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Grilled eggplant

4 Japanese eggplants (longer, thinner and less bitter than regular eggplants)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Optional toppings: Thai vinaigrette and fried onions

Cut of stem of eggplants. Slice lengthwise into pieces of desired thickness. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Clean and oil a grill pan or outside grill. Once hot, place eggplant slices and don’t move for 2 minutes or until tender. Flip and don’t move for 2 more minutes or until tender. Plate, top and serve.

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Summer snack spread

1/2 a local cucumber, sliced with a sprinkle of salt

1 whole local cucumber, sliced with drizzle of balsamic, turn of cracked black pepper and basil leaves

1 jammy egg, halved with sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning

2 creamy dreamy dips, homemade or store bought, such as pimiento cheese, charred onion

Simple crunchy carb such as crackers or toast points

One chopped nectarine or peach tossed with honey, dash of ginger, cardamom and cinnamon and topped with mint

Arrange on a beautiful plate and consume slowly sipping on your favorite white wine or spritzer binge watching Netflix in the air conditioning.

Josie Mai is a culinary artist and in-home chef. See her on Facebook and Instagram as Josie Mai Personal Chef or at josiemai.com.