Foodist Approved: Lebanese-style Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Quinoa

by | Jul 21, 2015
Grilled eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes

Grilled eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes

Vegans, vegetarians, and vegetable aficionados rejoice—you need not be a meat-lover to have fun grilling this summer. Vibrant vegetables (and fruit!) can benefit from the sear of a hot grill as much as a juicy burger or steak.

Thick slabs of eggplant brushed with olive oil and spices, transform into melt-in-your-mouth goodness when charred to perfection.

Grilling is faster than cooking on the stovetop and it requires less cleanup. Ready to get your grill on?! Here are a few tips to get you started:

Get it Hot

The key to achieving those desirable grill marks is giving your grill ample time to heat up prior to placing the vegetables (or meat) on the grate. You want to get those grates hot enough that you hear a sizzle when you set the food down. For this recipe, heat the grill to medium-high or around 450°F by lighting your grill at least 10 minutes prior to cooking and turning the knobs 3/4ths of the way.

Keep it Hot

While it’s tempting to constantly peak on your food to check that it hasn’t gone up in flames, it’s best to resist opening the lid as much as possible. Every time you lift the cover, the temperature drops drastically. When cooking on a grill, the surrounding indirect heat is as important as the direct heat to ensure the food cooks through instead of just searing on the outside. You also want to resist the urge to flip the meat and vegetables back and forth. Cooking once per side will give you the best results. Bring a timer outside with you and set it for the cook time listed in the recipe.

Man the Grill

While you don’t want to be overprotective of what’s cooking (see number 2 above), you also don’t want to toss your food on the grill and walk away. You’re cooking at a much higher temperature than your stovetop, which means your food will be ready pronto. Nothing is worse than an overcooked steak or completely charred veggies. Once you put something on the grill, stick around. Prep everything that you’ll need for dinner before you start grilling.

Lebanese-style Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Quinoa

Yield: serves 4 

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed using a fine-mesh strainer
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), top trimmed off, cut lengthwise into 1-inch slabs (4 slices)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Cook the quinoa:

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the quinoa, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Decrease the heat to low and simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and all the water has been absorbed (if any water remains simmer uncovered for a few minutes). Transfer to a large salad bowl, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Make the dressing:

In a food processor, pulse the garlic until minced. Add the tahini, lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper and pulse until smooth. Set aside. If the dressing thickens, thin with additional water.

Grill the eggplant, tomatoes, and chickpeas:

In a small bowl, combine the oil, cumin, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Brush both sides of the eggplant with the seasoned oil and set aside. Place the chickpeas and tomatoes in a medium bowl and toss with any remaining seasoned oil.

Preheat the grill to medium-high (the temperature gauge on the grill should be around 450°F). Place the eggplant slices directly on the grate on the left side of the grill and set a timer for 3 minutes. On the right side place a grill basket and pour in the chickpeas and tomatoes (Alternatively, if you do not have a grill basket, the chickpeas and tomatoes can be left raw. Simply cut the tomatoes in half).

After 3 minutes, give the chickpeas and tomatoes a quick stir and use tongs to lift a couple corners of the eggplant slices to check for doneness. If dark grill marks are present, flip each slice. If not, leave alone for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Cook eggplant until soft with dark grill marks on both sides and tomatoes until they burst, 8 to 10 minutes total.

To serve, toss the chickpeas, tomatoes, and basil with the quinoa. Place each eggplant slice on a plate and pile the quinoa salad on top. Serve with the Lemon Tahini Dressing on the side for drizzling.

Elyse Kopecky is a whole foods chef currently co-authoring a cookbook for runners, Run Fast Eat Slow, with Olympic marathoner and longtime friend, Shalane Flanagan. After 10 years working for Nike and EA Sports, Elyse decided to pursue her passion for talking and writing about food. She went to NYC to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute and has taken cooking classes throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Sign-up for sneak peeks of Shalane and Elyse’s book at or follow along @ElyseKopecky.

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2 Responses to “Foodist Approved: Lebanese-style Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Quinoa”

  1. Peggy says:

    This looks delicious Darya…I have to be gluten free now so any easy easy recipes you can get out that are gluten free will tickle my fancy for sure…thanks for being such a great source of healthy! Good Luck in NYC…

  2. Glen says:

    This looks delicious, I will be trying that very soon!
    I will also be coming back to hopefully find more of that sort of thing.

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