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Asian-Inspired Grilled Salmon and Eggplant Rice Bowl

Written by: Shawn Laughlin

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Grilled eggplant melts into tender salmon filets, topped with the fresh crunch of cucumbers, radishes & carrots.

Salmon, to me, is close to the perfect food. I won't debate farm-raised or wild- everyone must satisfy their own criteria for judging on that one -but it's undeniable that it's really a good thing to eat from a healthy lifestyle perspective. Plus, it's delicious!


Chances are, if you've been invited for dinner at our house, you've probably been served this salmon dish at least once. Dipped in a soy, garlic and sesame oil bath, passed over a hot grill, topped with a quick and easy salsa of fresh veggies, it's our favorite meal to serve and eat. 


One of the things that makes this combination of rice, eggplant and salmon topped with fresh veggies so irresistible is the juxtaposition of the varied textures. Rice offers a sturdy and filling base with a neutral flavor (I love the nutty quality of Basmati in this). The eggplant, also brushed with garlic, sesame oil and a touch of soy sauce, offers a crisp exterior and a melting center when cooked over a medium heat on the grill. Next, the salmon offers a bit of toothsome resistance, a touch of crunch around the edges and delicious flavor. Top it all off with the tang of a salsa made of crunchy carrots, cucumbers, fresh radishes, cilantro and rice wine vinaigrette and it's a transformative experience. The perfect summer meal, but to be honest we eat it year-round, and did I mention it's quick and easy?


Cutting the veggies for the salsa takes the most time, but it's time well spent. In fact, they're versatile, good for you, and make a great finishing touch (or side salad substitute) for anything you're cooking on the grill. Here we're riffing on Thai flavors, using a bit of sugar, red chili flakes (or use a fresh jalapeno) and a healthy dose of rice wine vinegar to add a fresh jolt of color and flavor to the entire dish.


Begin by making the marinade for the fish, then brush the eggplant with oil and garlic. By the time you're done dicing the vegetables for the topping, the salmon and eggplant will be ready for the grill (of course this works just as well under a hot broiler or in a hot skillet if it's a rainy night or a cold evening in February). Take time to cook the eggplant slowly, off the direct heat if possible, because this will encourage a crispy exterior and a melting interior on each slice.


As soon as you've taken the salmon and eggplant off the grill (or out from under the broiler or off the stove) drizzle a bit of the salsa dressing on both, so the flavors absorb while they're still warm. If you're serving family style I like to place the salmon in the center of a big platter, surrounded by the eggplant, with a heaping portion of the salsa down the center of the salmon. You can also pass the salsa around like a side dish, because it's great on it's own as a salad as well!

Asian-inspired flavors make grilled salmon and eggplant an irresistible combo.

Textures shine in this sublime combination of meltingly tender fish topped with crunchy vegetable salsa.

Easy prep and a quick grill make this a perfect choice for outdoor summer entertaining.

The ingredients for this recipe, including a raw fillet of salmon, radishes, cucumber and eggplant.

Grilled Sesame-Soy Salmon & Eggplant with Cucumber, Carrot & Radish Salsa

Asian-Inspired Grilled Salmon & Eggplant

with Cucumber, Radish & Carrot Salsa


Ingredients:

For the rice bowl:

1 C. Basmati Rice (or any other long-grained rice)

1.5 C. water

1 T. olive oil

Salt to taste

For the salsa:

1 English cucumber

2 medium-sized carrots

1 bunch radishes

3 scallions, green and white parts sliced thinly

1 C. chopped cilantro (or to taste)

1 t. red pepper flakes

1 T. sugar

5 T. Canola or vegetable oil

2-3 T. Rice wine vinegar

1 t. fish sauce (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the salmon:

2 lb. salmon filet

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 C. low sodium soy sauce

3 T. vegetable or canola oil

1 t. Frank's hot sauce (or to taste)

1 T. dijon mustard

For the eggplant:

2 medium eggplants, tops and bottoms removed, sliced into 1" rounds crosswise

1 C. low sodium soy sauce

4 T. toasted sesame oil

2 t. garlic powder (or 2 cloves, minced)

Method:

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients for the salmon in a non-reactive dish and place the salmon filet flesh down in the marinade. Let rest for 20-40 minutes, turning the fish skin-side down for the last 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, then brush the eggplant rounds on both sides.
  3. Prepare the rice according to the package directions, and set aside after fluffing with a fork once it's ready.
  4. Cut the cucumber, carrots and radish into small dice of roughly the same size. I don't peel the vegetables because I love their colors, but feel free to do that if you want to. Wash, rinse and chop the cilantro leaves.
  5. Combine the rest of the salsa ingredients in a medium serving bowl and whisk to emulsify slightly and dissolve the sugar. Toss the diced veggies, scallions, and cilantro in the dressing and let marinate while the salmon and eggplant are cooking, tossing occasionally.
  6. Heat the grill (or broiler or skillet) and brush grill rack with a bit of vegetable oil to prevent the fish and eggplant slices from sticking.
  7. Place the eggplant rounds on the grill, over indirect heat if possible. Leave the hottest part of the grill for the fish, and let the eggplant cook a bit more slowly.
  8. Place fish flesh side down on the grill and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes (the rule of thumb is 3 minutes per side per inch of thickness, so use this as a guide). You can close the grill top for a couple of those minutes to hasten the cooking process along a bit. Flip the salmon when the sides begin to look a bit opaque, and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes with the skin side down, again closing the top while they cook.
  9. Gently flip the eggplant slices after about 5 minutes, and let them cook for another 5 minutes. A closed lid helps them cook through without getting too brown.
  10. When the fish is ready, grab a big platter and gently place the salmon in the center, allowing the eggplant to continue cooking for another minute or so. If you've got a bit of extra dressing from the vegetable salsa, drizzle that on the fish while warm.
  11. When the eggplant is done, arrange it around the edges of the platter, framing the salmon, and spoon the salsa over the center of the fish, passing any extra around like a side salad.
  12. Serve the rice in a big serving bowl alongside the platter of fish, so everyone can create their own perfect combination of rice, eggplant, salmon and salsa.

A filet of salmon and slices of eggplant on a grill.

The concept of throwing together quick diced vegetables dressed in something tangy like a vinaigrette is not new, but it's a good one to remember for any variety of foods that need an extra shot of flavor or color. Try mixing up the veggies in this salsa with snap peas, string beans, asparagus, or bell peppers. Anything with crunch will stand up to the vinegar (or lemon, or lime juice if you want to vary that too) and give you a burst of freshness on chicken, fish, steak, or shrimp as well as this delicious salmon.

Next dinner party favorite? A salmon dish that wows in under 30 minutes.

A bowl of rice, eggplant and salmon being placed on a wicker placemat.

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Caskata founder Shawn Laughlin

Shawn Laughlin

I'm a foodie turned entrepreneur. In love with delicious food and the moments spent gathered around a big, beautiful table. When I'm not behind my desk at Caskata you can find me in the kitchen, or the garden behind our newly-renovated mid-century ranch house.

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