Cayenne Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Tomato Salad

By Mark G. McLaughlin

By Mark G. McLaughlin

For most people it's not a Memorial Day BBQ, or any other cookout, without meat on the grill. Others want a meatless option, or may simply want some grilled vegetables to balance out their plate. California-grown eggplant grills great, and makes a perfect main course or side dish, especially when paired with a nice, fresh salad of California tomatoes. Cayenne grilled eggplant with fresh tomato salad can brighten up any BBQ, and, as we like say at Cultivate California, it’s also a great way to “Keep the State on Your Plate.”

Grilling eggplant is as easy as grilling meat or any vegetable. Adding cayenne pepper gives it a kick and elevates it to the status of the main course. A nice, fresh, cool tomato salad is a great counterpoint to the spicy cayenne, and together they make a great addition or alternative to the traditional offerings at a Memorial Day BBQ or other cookout.


How many eggplants you need depends on whether it is being offered as the main course, one of several alternatives to the main course, or as a side dish. If the latter, a single large eggplant will do. Here is a recipe for that, but double, triple or quadruple the list of ingredients if it is the main course (or you have a lot of guests)

  • one large eggplant
  • ¼ cup of olive oil (or canola, or vegetable oil in pinch)
  • 1 lemon (or some lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (preferably red wine, but apple cider or balsamic vinegar will do)
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (it goes a long way)


  1. wash, peel and then slice the eggplant into medallions or fillets about half an inch thick
  2. place eggplant on the grill
  3. brush with olive oil
  4. sprinkle with cayenne pepper
  5. after five minutes, flip the eggplant
  6. brush with olive oil
  7. sprinkle with cayenne pepper
  8. grill for another five minutes (or until tender)

Serving Grilled Eggplant

Remove the eggplant from the grill, place on a platter and splash with a little lemon juice (or serve the lemons/lemon juice on the side).

Variation for those who want a little more spice and heat:

  • Once on the grill, sprinkle with coriander and/or dust with chili pepper and/or salt & pepper (black ground pepper) to taste

Fresh Tomato Salad

Ingredients for Fresh Tomato Salad

The simplest fresh tomato salad is the best. It is best served as a side dish to dress up the plate and to compliment (and offer a cool, refreshing counterpoint) to the cayenne-spiced eggplant.

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 stalk of celery

Directions for Fresh Tomato Salad:

  1. wash the vegetables
  2. peel the cucumber
  3. slice or wedge cut the tomatoes
  4. slice the cucumber (the thinner the better)
  5. slice the celery (the smaller the pieces, the better)
  6. combine in a large bowl and chill

Serving Fresh Tomato Salad

Fresh tomato salad can be served as is or with your choice (or choices) of dressing. Simple oil and vinegar will do, as will any light creamy dressing, or a vinaigrette. Why not offer guests a choice of dressings? In addition, a yogurt dressing can be offered both for the salad – and for the eggplant.


As with any salad, there are ingredients you can add to taste. Those that go best with fresh tomato salad are radishes (washed, sliced very thin) and green onions (scallions), either washed and served on the side, preferably on ice, or diced into the salad.

What goes well with Cayenne Grilled Eggplant and Fresh Tomato Salad?

Cayenne grilled eggplant and fresh tomato salad can be a meal on their own. They can also be the side dish for any grilled meat, chicken or fish.


California farmers produce fresh, high-quality fruits, nuts, vegetables, proteins and fibers right in our own backyard. It takes water to grow the food we love and farming and ranching are pivotal to the health and stability of our state. 

Learn more about how food and fiber is grown in California