Monday, August 5, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Salad

Roasted eggplant is an easy base for salads. Its smoky flavor, even when roasted in the oven, adds something special. Baba Ghanoush is probably the best-known of these salads but eggplant melds nicely with many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. In the summer, it is an inexpensive vegetable too. When selecting eggplants, look for heavy, firm fruit with a shiny deep purple-black skin. Though I prefer the smaller Asian eggplants for stir-fries, the large Italian eggplants are better for roasting.

Some beautiful eggplant at the market (photo by USDA)
This is lemony-garlicy salad. If you don't love garlic, you can cut down on the garlic.

To Roast Eggplants:

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. This makes clean-up easier.

Poke eggplants with a fork, 2-3 pokes front, back and sides.

Place eggplants on baking sheet and put under the broiler. The eggplants should be about 4-6" from the heating element. Too close and it will burn before the eggplant is fully cooked. Too far and you'll be waiting all day for it to cook.

Broil eggplant 10-15 minutes per side, for a total of 40-60 minutes. The skin with be well-charred and the flesh will be very soft when it's done.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the flesh, scraping it off the charred skin.

If you have a grill, you can place the whole eggplants on the grill and roast them that way. They take about the same amount of time.

Roasted Eggplant Salad
(serves 8)

2 large eggplants, roasted and skin removed
3 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon coarse salt
juice of ½ a lemon
3 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 large sprigs parsley, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper for final seasoning

Chop up the eggplant and place in a sieve. Mash it with a fork and let it sit in the sieve to drain while you mix up the dressing. Roughly chop the garlic, sprinkle on the ½ teaspoon salt and mash with the side of the knife to form a paste. Place in a bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper. Whisk together with the fork. Smoosh the eggplant one more time to squeeze out the moisture. Spoon in the bowl with the dressing and mix to combine. Taste for salt and add more if it seems bland. Sprinkle on the parsley, scallions, and tomatoes. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and serve as a salad or as a dip with crusty bread.

For a pretty presentation, spread the eggplant mixture on a platter, then sprinkle on the remaining ingredients, like in the photo.

Some optional additions: a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts or a generous handful of pomegranate seeds. Both add a nice crunch.

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