Grilled Eggplant & Kamote Leaves

Filipino family parties take up two days at least. You eat (just...all of the time), sing karaoke, play mah jong...Then, you stay the night and wake up the next morning to all of The Aunties cooking up a huge breakfast. Longanisa, tocino...the works. And then, you pack up some leftovers to take home. (Always.) It's about food, food, and more food. (Always.)

For Father's Day this year, my sister and I decided to put together a Filipino-style cookout! Although it was only a few of us over at my house, we really wanted to serve up some of our BBQ favorites. I spent all morning at the farmers market and came home with a ton of vegetables. They would be perfect as sides to all of the steak we'd be grilling!

Now, whenever the family gets together for a meal like this, there really isn't a lot of measuring going on. (Just make sure to make plenty of food to eat and for leftovers!) So, this post isn't exactly a recipe, but it's more of a How-To...How to have a Filipino-style cookout with Grilled Eggplant and Kamote Leaves! ;)

In the Philippines, sweet potatoes are called "kamote." The leaves (or "tops") are also used in many dishes. They can be eaten fresh, tossed with tomatoes, bagoong, or fish sauce, or they can be put in soups, like Sinigang.

You can find these at Asian stores or farmers' markets that have a heavy Asian/Filipino influence. You can even grow them at home! After trimming off all of the leaves, my mom gathers the leftover thick stems into a vase filled with water or plants them right in the garden. New leaves start growing in no time!

Eggplants are an essential vegetable in Filipino cuisine and especially in Filipino cookouts. They're perfect with grilled meats, whole fish, or shrimp!

I just poke the entire surface with a fork, to allow steam to escape while cooking, and they're ready to go on the grill.

I used to try asking my mom, "So, how long should they cook?" 

But, her answer every time was, *makes poking motion with her finger* "Until they're ready..." (I told you...Not a lot of measuring...)

My rule of thumb is, for the larger and thicker eggplants, 5 minutes per "side" over medium-high heat. I rotate the eggplant in quarter-turns, and the skin chars and cracks as it cooks. The flesh should also be tender, but not too mushy.

And, of course, no cookout is complete without some ice cold drinks! This is my sister, Jessica, enjoying and Instagram-ing her Goose Island IPA. She loves Instagram, almost as much as I do. (I attempted to catch her in a candid, cookbook-style pose...but I kept laughing at her instead. This is what sisters are for.)

After grilling the eggplant, I let it cool slightly, then I peeled off the browned skin. My mom always served it like this. There was never any need for extra salt because we'd dip it in a chili-garlic vinegar or a mixture of vinegar and bagoong (a paste of fermented shrimp or fish), and there was never a need to cut it up real pretty...just grab one and dig right in!

I simply steamed the kamote leaves, also completely on their own, just until they started to wilt. Kamote leaves are a bit heartier than spinach, but you can treat them in many of the same ways.

For Father's Day, we served these delicious veggies with my dad's favorite: STEAK. The smoky eggplant goes so well with grilled or roasted meats and fish, and the kamote leaves add a fresh bite. (The only thing missing here is my giant pile of rice...)

If you're hosting a cookout for your Filipino family or having Filipino friends over, prepare these simple-yet-so-good vegetables! It's quick and easy to do, and it'll bring back so many memories of family backyard BBQ's!

Grilled Eggplant

Print Recipe
4 large Japanese Eggplant
  1. Wash each eggplant, then poke the entire surface with a fork.
  2. Grill over medium-high heat, rotating each eggplant in quarter-turns every 5 minutes.
  3. After the eggplant is cooked, cool slightly. Then, peel off the browned skin and discard.
  4. Serve while hot, enjoy!

Kamote Leaves

Print Recipe
1 bunch Kamote Leaves
Water, for steaming
  1. Trim the kamote leaves from the thicker stems, then wash the leaves thoroughly.
  2. Steam over water for 1-2 minutes, just until the leaves begin to wilt.
  3. Serve as is, or with fresh tomato and onion. Enjoy!