DISH: Grilled Eggplant Salad
MAIN INGREDIENT: Eggplant
OCCASION: Vacation Day Lunch
Sometimes, during the work day, backseat chef and sister, Jill, sends me links to recipes she’d like to see made. Sometimes they’re one hundred percent mouthwatering, and sometimes passing them up is as easy as a fruity pie. The latter is particularly true when she sends me gross, low-cal substitutions for greasy dishes from the Hungry Girl blog, since, unfortunately, I like my food full-fat.
Yet, as I said, often Jill is spot on. This recipe for Grilled Eggplant Salad comes from a link I found in my gchat window sometime in the middle of August (also known as eggplant season). It comes from the New York Times‘s blog on cooking for health, and it’s a simple dish, but I was drawn to it since it uses a technique I hadn’t really thought about before. You grill eggplant, as I so often do, but then you marinate it afterwards. It’s like poaching a fish and then flavoring it; in other words: counterintuitive. But it’s a great approach, and I’ve definitely used it since.
Somewhere in August, I don’t exactly remember when, I took advantage of my office’s two-for-one Summer Friday policy whereby a Friday off only counts as half of a vacation day. I stayed at home, cleaned the neglected corners of my apartment with Fantastik, and took a bike ride. And then when all this physical activity made me hungry just around whenlunchtime came about, I recalled the eggplant recipe Jill had sent.
I find that lunch made from scratch and prepared expressly for that meal—rather than scrounged together from leftovers—is one of the most luxurious occasions out there, perhaps because it is so rare. Even more unusally, I followed the recipe to the letter, substituting sushi rice for Jasmine and topping it all with some smoked tofu, but otherwise quelling my need to tweak.
Salt to taste (optional)
1 1/2 pounds long, thin Japanese eggplants, or 1 large globe eggplant, sliced about 1/4 inch thick (slice on the diagonal if using long, thin eggplants)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large plum tomato, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 recipe Tangy Dressing (recipe follows)Place the rice in a bowl, cover with water and swirl the rice around. Drain and repeat this step two or three more times until the water runs clear. Drain, place the rice in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan, and add enough water to cover the rice by a little more than 1/2 inch. (Measure by placing the tip of your index finger on the surface of the rice; the water should come to just below the first joint.) Add salt if desired, and bring to a boil. Allow the water to boil hard for about 15 seconds, then reduce the heat, cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time.
Turn off the heat, and leave the lid on the rice. Let stand for five to ten minutes. Remove the lid, and gently turn the rice with a paddle to bring the rice up from the bottom of the pot. Return the lid, and let stand while you prepare the eggplant.
Heat a panini grill to high, or prepare a hot grill. Brush the eggplant slices with canola oil. Grill for three to four minutes in the panini grill (five to eight minutes per side on a regular grill) until the slices are slightly browned and tender all the way through. As each batch is done, remove to a bowl. When all of the eggplant has been grilled, cover the bowl tightly and allow the eggplant to steam and eventually to cool.
Coarsely chop the eggplant, and toss together with the herbs and diced tomato. Toss the Tangy Dressing with the eggplant mixture. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then taste and adjust seasoning.
Place the rice on a platter or on individual plates, top with the eggplant mixture and serve.
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 1 serrano or bird chile, to taste, finely minced
Mix together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chile. Set aside.