Cooking eggplant in this primal way — putting the uncut vegetable directly on the grill grates — always excites me. It’s not just the fun of the cooking itself — watching the flame gradually morph the firm, shiny eggplant, softening and charring it to the point of collapse — it’s the thrill of the smoky flavor that develops as a result.
That flavor is a defining element of many Mediterranean eggplant salads, including those typical of Turkish cuisine, which inspired this recipe.
Once the eggplant is cooked (either on the grill or directly on the grates of a gas stove) and cooled, the flesh separates easily from the blackened skin. (Note that the cooking time can vary considerably depending on the density and variety of the vegetable. You know it’s done when it has started bubbling and has collapsed.)
When chopped, the eggplant loses most of its shape, leaving a silky, somewhat creamy, smoky base for a summery salad. Here it is seasoned with a little garlic and tossed with chopped tomato, bell pepper, red onion, parsley, lemon and olive oil for a fresh but sumptuous side, or as part of a mezze spread.