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Eggplant is amazing on the grill, but sometimes the exterior can char before the inside is fully cooked and creamy-tender. Let the eggplant sit in a warm place for a few minutes after you’ve pulled it from the grill. This allows the interior to steam a bit more—carryover cooking—guaranteeing the lush texture you’re looking for.
Trim the ends off the eggplants, halve them lengthwise, and sprinkle with a generous dose of salt. Set them on a rack or in a big colander and leave for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours (if longer than 2 hours, put them in the fridge).
Heat a grill to medium-high.
Blot the moisture and excess salt from the surface of the eggplants. Grill the eggplants—unoiled—until they are lightly charred on the outside and tender on the inside, about 10 minutes total, though this will depend on the variety of eggplant. (Alternatively, to roast them: Heat the oven to 450°F, and heat a baking sheet for 15 minutes to get it ripping hot. Toss the eggplants in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and place them cut side down on the hot—be careful!—pan, and blast it back in the oven. Roast until both sides are nicely browned and the eggplants are tender, about 18 minutes.)
When the eggplants are cooked, pile them into a large bowl. Add the vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lots of twists of pepper and toss to distribute all the seasonings. Add the tomatoes, scallions, croutons, and herb leaves and toss gently. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Let the dish sit for a few minutes so the tomato juices soak into the croutons and serve at room temperature.
Makes about 2 cups
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Tear the bread, crust and all, into bite-size pieces. Toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Spread the croutons on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, checking every 4 to 5 minutes and moving the outside croutons to the center of the pan so they cook evenly. Don’t let them get rock hard; leave a little bit of chew in the center. The total baking time will depend on the type and density of bread you’re using, but mostly likely will be 10 to 20 minutes.
Slide onto paper towels to absorb any extra oil and season again lightly with salt and pepper.
Store the croutons in an airtight container. (Be sure to make more than you need for your recipe because you’ll find yourself eating these as a snack.)
Excerpted from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Laura Dart and A.J. Meeker.