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Thai-Mesquite Grilled Eggplant

Mesquite charcoal and a small handful of mesquite wood chips
4 long Asian eggplants
4 jalapeno or Fresno peppers
10-15 Thai chilies (bird peppers), finely chopped
Juice of about 2 limes, to taste
2-3 Tbsp fish sauce, to taste
2-3 tsp. sugar, to taste
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 lb. small fresh shrimp, shelled and butterflied
1 hard-boiled egg, cut into small wedges (6-8 pieces)
A small handful of short cilantro sprigs

Start a batch of mesquite charcoal in a barbecue kettle and soak
the wood chips. While waiting for the coals, trim the tops off
the eggplants and the peppers. Make a hot-and-sour sauce by mixing
together the chopped Thai chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
Let sit for the flavors to blend and mingle. Blanch shrimp in
boiling water for 30 seconds to cook. Drain well and set aside.
Grill the eggplants and peppers whole over the hot mesquite, turning
occasionally until they are slightly charred on the outside and
have softened. For a stronger smoked flavor, add damp wood chips
to the red coals and cover the barbecue kettle after each turning.
Place the grilled eggplants and peppers in a paper sack for a few
minutes to steam. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred
skin and thin outer membrane. Cut each eggplant crosswise into
segments about 1 1/2 inches long, each segment in half lengthwise,
and each half in 2-3 strips, depending on the size of the eggplant.
Arrange on a serving platter and spread the sliced shallots over
the top. Cut the skinned peppers into long, thin strips. Do not
remove the seeds if you want an extra spicy salad. Arrange in an
attractive design over the eggplants and shallots and top with the
cooked shrimp. Taste and adjust the spicy lime sauce so that it is
equally sour and salty with a hint of sweetness. Spoon evenly over
the salad. Garnish with egg wedges and cilantro. Serve at room

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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