I’ve been on an eggplant kick lately—which is weird because I’m not really that big a fan of the purple buggers. First, a few things that I didn’t know about eggplant:
- It’s actually a berry.
- It’s native to India.
- The Arabs brought it to the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.
- China is the largest grower of eggplant.
(Many thanks to the internet for enlightening me on the humble eggplant.) Eggplants do best when grown in temperate climates which explains why Italians grow and eat so many of the darn things. I found this gem in The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking (yes, I’m working my way through it). It’s pretty simple although be forewarned, you have to like eggplants’ weird, squishy texture to really love this one.
Eggplant, Lemon and Caper Salad
- 1 large eggplant, about 1½ lbs
- 1 t salt
- 4 T olive oil
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 T capers, rinsed
- 12 pitted green olives
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped (I minced)
- 2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- Salt and pepper
Cut the eggplant into 1” cubes. Place the cubes in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. (This very key. Make sure they are as dry as possible so that you can get a nice sear on the eggplant.)
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook the eggplant cubes over medium heat for about 10 minutes, tossing regularly, until golden and softened. You may need to do this in two batches to ensure that all the eggplant cubes brown well. Drain on paper towels and season with a little salt. (So, this is where I ran into problems. I did not get a nice brown sear on my cubes because either the oil wasn’t hot enough, the cubes weren’t dry enough, I tossed too soon, or didn’t toss enough. I’m not really sure.)
Place the eggplant cubes in a large serving bowl and toss with the lemon zest and juice, capers, olives, garlic, and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. It really is that easy.
There is a note in the book that says it will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to four days. And, it will taste better if made the day before and then brought to room temp for serving. This is what I did, and the eggplant had time to really absorb the flavors.
Good, especially as leftovers. But, I would say that it would be even better with a crispier skin on the eggplant cubes. I think next time, I’d salt/drain and then roast the eggplant cubes in olive oil in the oven. I find that I have better luck getting brown crispiness this way then on the stove top.