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Grilled Eggplant Salad with Fennel & Feta

This grilled eggplant salad features perfectly grilled eggplant, crunchy fennel, creamy feta cheese, pine nuts and mint. It’s a side dish that’s sure to steal the show. The salad is especially great for entertaining, as you can make all of the components ahead of time. The dressing can be whisked together a few days ahead, and the eggplant can be grilled and left at room temperature for several hours. You can even shave the fennel a few hours ahead—just top it with damp paper towels and refrigerate it. Once you’re ready to eat, all you have to do is toss the fennel with the dressing and assemble.
*A note on salting eggplant: if the eggplant is really fresh (it should feel firm and heavy with shiny skin), you don’t need to salt it. However, if it’s a little past its prime (it will feel soft in places), salting the slices will draw out bitterness and make them firmer (and easier to grill). Spread the slices out on a large baking sheet or work surface; sprinkle them with kosher salt; and let them sit for 10 minutes. Using paper towels, blot off the moisture that comes to the surface. Flip the slices over and repeat the same step on the other side. Proceed with the recipe, but don’t season the slices with salt.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: eggplant salad, grilled eggplant salad, how to grill eggplant
Servings: 6 people

Equipment

  • Grill or Grill Pan

Ingredients

Grilled Eggplant

  • 1 large or 2 small Italian eggplants (about 2 pounds), cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salad

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

Instructions

Grill the eggplant

  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Brush the eggplant on both sides with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top and rub or brush to roughly coat (it doesn’t have to be perfect).
  • Clean and oil the grill grates. Grill the eggplant, covered, for 2-4 minutes, or until grill marks form on the bottom. Flip the slices; cook until grill marks form on the other side and the eggplant is mostly tender, about 2-4 minutes (it might not be cooked all the way through, and that’s okay!). Transfer the slices to a baking sheet or dish, and cover tightly with foil. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to steam, then uncover. Do Ahead: The grilled eggplant can sit out at room temperature for up to 6 hours, or it can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Make the salad

  • Place the lemon juice in a small bowl or jar and add the grated garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine. Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before using.
  • Cut the fennel bulbs crosswise into paper-thin slices using a mandoline or sharp knife. Transfer the fennel to a large bowl, and toss it with the dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the eggplant slices on a platter, and pile the fennel salad over top (drizzle any dressing from the bottom of the bowl over top). Garnish with the feta, pine nuts and mint. Serve!

Notes

Tips: 
  • You can grill the eggplant on an outdoor grill or on the stovetop in a grill pan
  • Be sure to clean and oil the grill grates before cooking the eggplant to prevent sticking (if using a grill pan, spritz it with cooking spray). 
  • Brushing the eggplant slices with olive oil will help prevent sticking and will also contribute to flavor. A pastry brush makes it easy.
  • Drizzling the eggplant with balsamic vinegar provides a hint of sweetness that pairs wonderfully with the smoky flavor.
  • The secret to tender, silky eggplant slices is to cover them with foil when they come off the grill. This will allow them to steam and cook through. 
  • The grilled eggplant can be served warm or at room temperature (or even cold!). 
  • A mandoline makes it really easy to shave the fennel into thin slices (use a sharp knife if you don't have one).