Sometimes I forget that the simplest of salads often don’t involve leafy greens. Just before an abundance of salad greens hit our farmers’ markets, I was at the co-op and spotted an eggplant. I usually don’t buy out-of-season vegetables, but I thought about what a nice change it would be to indulge in one of summer’s signature ingredients. Virtually every eggplant dish I make is a variation on this theme: plunk the eggplant down on one of my gas range’s burners, char it until it is totally blackened, covered with ashes, and seeping fluid onto the range, scrape out the smoky, roasted innards, and then mix that with whatever makes the most sense at the time.
I had a bit of red onion around and so I thought a simple salad with a kick of cumin might do the trick. You could use lemon juice if you have one around. I didn’t, but vinegar did the trick.
Since last week I have visited the CitySeed markets and stocked up on rabe, spinach, carrots, and other seasonal treats (check back soon!) but this salad was a great preview of what summer has to offer.
Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet
- 1 eggplant, about 1 pound, more long and skinny than stout
- 1/4 red onion, minced finely
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- coarse salt
1. Roast the eggplant. I place it, whole, over a gas burner directly on my range. As one side chars and blackens, I rotate it with metal tongs, until the entire eggplant is charred and the flesh has collapsed and is cooked. Alternatively, you can slice it in half lengthwise, place both halves cut-side down on a baking sheet, and place under a high burner (about 1.5″ away from flame) for 15 – 30 minutes, until it is charred and the inside is soft and cooked.
2. Scrape the eggplant flesh from the inside into a medium bowl, and discard skin.
3. Break up the eggplant with a fork. Stir in the other ingredients: onion, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin, parsley. Add a little salt, taste, and add more if needed.
4. Serve at room temperature as part of a selection of tapas, or to accompany roast fish, chicken, or lamb. Heap on toasts to make crostini, garnish with a bit of crumbled feta. This is a flexible dish so enjoy playing with it.