I have a confession to make: I have a hard time considering eggplant a summer vegetable. I know that it grows in the sunshine, right in between the tomatoes and the basil, but its silky, melting texture is what I want in wintertime. It's light yet satisfying, the perfect comfort food for January. Some people guiltily buy avocados in winter; others, pineapple. Me, I buy eggplant. And when I do, I make this salad.
This is not a cold salad (although you could eat it cold; it's quite good at room temperature). But it's best warm and straight out of the oven.
The eggplant is tossed with olive oil and a touch of vinegar, smoked paprika and cumin, and roasted until soft and buttery. Then I toss it with chopped smoked, salted almonds, goat cheese, parsley, and a touch of lemon. It's comforting yet fresh, hearty yet light. Smoky, a little tangy, rich.
This is good all on its own, or as a side dish to a bit of chicken or steak. I especially like it piled up on a piece of whole wheat toast as an open-faced sandwich. It lasts well, too — a bowl of this makes a week of lunches for me.
Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds & Goat Cheese
2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup flat parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled and divided
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and set aside while making the marinade.
Whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, smoked paprika, and cumin. Dab away any extra water that has beaded up on the eggplant and toss with the marinade. Stir in the garlic. Spread the eggplant on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment and slide onto a rack placed in the center of the oven. Roast at 400°F for 40 minutes, or until very tender and slightly browned. (Stir every 15 minutes and check after 30 minutes to make sure it isn't burning.) Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
Whisk together the lemon juice and soy sauce. Return the eggplant to the bowl and toss with the lemon juice mixture. Stir in the parsley leaves, smoked almonds, and most of the goat cheese, reserving a little.
Spread the finished salad in a serving bowl and sprinkle the reserved goat cheese crumbles and scallions on top.
• Eggplant Caponata Sandwiches with Mozzarella
• End of Summer Recipe: Grilled Eggplant Topped with Goat Cheese and Tomato
• A Roundup Of Eggplant
• Recipe: Braised Eggplant and Tomatoes
• Lentils With Broiled Eggplant
(Images: Faith Durand)