When is grilled eggplant not grilled eggplant?

Grilled and roasted eggplant, with balsamic vinegar.

“Would you go check the grill to see how much gas is left?” I asked Mr. Brooks a few days ago. “Sure,” he said. “Now, how do I do that?”

“Take a big measuring cup full of superhot water and pour it down the side of the tank,” I said. “Then feel the container, and where the metal feels colder than the rest, that marks the level of gas in it.”

Easy, right? Mr. Brooks’ defense for not being able to figure it out was that it was 110 outside, so the whole thing felt hot and there was no “cold” area to be had. As it turned out, there was enough left in the tank to grill this meal, so I blithely went along assuming all was well.

Yesterday, I decided to grill eggplant and steak for dinner, along with the leftover zucchini. After losing several slices of beets through the grating, I had decided that a grill basket would be a good idea, to keep tonight’s vegetables contained and easily flippable. I’m not sure why I thought Bed, Bath & Beyond would have grilling items — maybe it’s because they do sell pots and pans? — but I had no luck in store and ended up at Target, where I not only found the grill basket but also gazed wishfully at other BBQ accessories. A smoker! Wireless remote thermometer! A grill that had wheels that weren’t coming off!  (“No! You only need this basket!”)

So, back home, chop-chop (and slice-slice) and my veggies are seasoned and ready for the grill, which has been heated and ready.

How to grill eggplant (ideally): Cut plant in half lengthwise; place each half cut-side down and slice thickly. Brush both sides with olive oil; and season slices with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. I added a bit of Smokehouse pepper, which may be my new grilling addiction (at least until the jar runs out). Grill over medium-high for six minutes each side. A little crunchy on the outside, silky on the inside.

How to grill zucchini (ideally): Slice zucchini into rounds, then do the same as above.

How I grilled eggplant and zucchini: I went through all the steps above, until when I went to turn them and discovered that the grill had run out of gas sometime after I’d put everything on the grate.

How I saved everything: We could’ve trucked down to the local Ace Hardware* (which I’m going to have to do today anyway) to switch out our empty container for a full one. But by that point I was like, “Ugh, I just want this over with,” so I set our oven’s convection roast setting to 450° and moved everything onto baking sheets.

* Hardware stores charge a lot less than convenience stores for this, BTW. (They’re not called convenience stores because they are cheap.)

The eggplant got to stay on a rack; the zucchini was arranged single-layer-deep on a foil-lined sheet, and the steak got a standard broiler pan. All three pans fit in one oven, and because the convection setting circulates air around everything, I wasn’t too worried about one tray blocking another from getting exposure to heat. (Although, just in case, I did switch up the pan positions when it was time to flip everything over.)

Which is to say: Much to my chagrin**, everything got roasted, not grilled.

** The whole allure of grilling, after all, is that I didn’t have to turn on the oven (which can heat up the house and tax our already-annoyed air conditioner) or worry about having to clean up pans.

There was a plus side: Roasting vegetables brings out a sweetness that grilling can sometimes overpower, so the eggplant really was silky and delicious. I think the cut of steak could have benefited from grilling (or even just pan-searing) more than roasting, so it was the loserish part of the meal. It sure did look pretty when it came out of the oven, though. The down side is that we ate so early — 5:30 p.m.! — and there was so many vegetables involved that, come around 8:30, I indiscriminately mowed through what was left of a bag of tortilla chips in an attempt to stop my stomach from growling. Usually I grab a bowl and measure out a serving’s worth, but this time I just took the bag and said, “I shall finish this now.” And then followed it up with some Otter Pops.

WHAT SAM WORE: 7-22-12
The shirt: Texas Longhorns T-shirt, from the UT student union in Austin.
The shorts: Cotton jersey workout shorts, from Old Navy.
The shoes: Custom All-Stars from Converse, which I made on converse.com.

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