I was digging through the long, purple Japanese eggplant at the farmers market on a recent Saturday morning. Suddenly I spotted a much smaller, baby eggplant. As I started to pull away the larger variety, I found more and began piling as many as I could into my hands the crook of my arm.
Seeing my determination, the vendor came over and pulled away the larger eggplants so I could find more. Clearly, he understood my mission.
Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I always have to research after I buy it to learn the exact name. These were Indian eggplant, which are often simply called baby eggplant. At about 2 inches long, it’s no surprise why they got the latter name.
At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with them. That sums up most of my farmers market strategy – buy now, think later.
I’d seen these eggplants stuffed and baked before, but we had plans to fire up the grill that night so I took a different approach.
The challenge was getting the eggplant soft enough to scoop out the insides, but not so cooked through that they fell apart. We had a whole chicken on the grill which meant the heat was hovering around 300 to 325 degrees which kept the little eggplants from cooking so quickly and allowing me to accomplish that goal.
I decided to stir together some garlic goat cheese I had in the fridge with finely chopped walnuts. Any herb-infused fresh goat cheese, or chevre, will do. The small amount of insides that I scooped out of the eggplants went into this mix, and I mashed and stirred it up well.
Fair warning, stuffing is not a clean job. The eggplant are small, but with some work you can get them filled up. But they also need to be held together. A few of them split on both sides and if I’d thrown them on the grill like that, all the good stuff would have bubbled out.
Prosciutto to the rescue. I used about a half slice for each. This would be the kind of slice that comes in a pre-packaged charcuterie pack. When wrapped up in the prosciutto, everything stays in place while the grill warms the filling and the meat crisps up a bit.
Because these are young eggplants, tough skin isn’t an issue. You can serve them with a knife and fork, or serve them as a grab-and-go appetizer that can be finished off in a couple bites.
I really was thrilled with how these turned out and I’m hoping I can score some more eggplants this weekend to continue experimenting!
Grilled Stuffed Baby Eggplant with Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Prosciutto
Makes 4 servings
(2 eggplants each)
What you’ll need:
8 baby eggplant (2 to 3 inches long)
1/3 cup garlic or herb fresh goat cheese
1 tablespoon very finely chopped raw walnuts
8 pieces of prosciutto, large enough to wrap the eggplants
How to make it:
Heat the grill to about 300 degrees F.
Rub each eggplant with olive oil and brush oil on the grill grate. Grill the eggplants for about 7 minutes, flipping once. You want them to begin to soften, but not shrivel and shrink.
Remove the eggplant from the grill and let them cool to handle. Cut a slit in each eggplant and carefully scoop out some of the insides to create space for the filling. Place what you scoop out into a bowl. Add the goat cheese and walnuts and stir well.
Working one eggplant of a time, fill it with a generous spoonful of filling and wrap prosciutto around it. Tuck in all the ends so that it covers it like a wrapped blanket, holding in all the filling. Continue for each eggplant.
Return the eggplant to the grill for about 5 minutes, flipping once. Cook just long enough for the prosciutto to begin to crisp up and the filling to heat through. Serve warm.