My friend Dan’s two favorite foods are eggplant and grapefruit. When I first started the Fountain Avenue Kitchen years ago, he issued a request: please forward any good recipes using these two ingredients. (Not necessarily in the same recipe, of course!)
Over the years, I’ve sent Dan scores of recipes that seemed up his ally. Many times, they were recipes from a magazine or blog that I happened to come across. More times than not, I hadn’t tried the recipe, so I’d issue a disclaimer: “I haven’t made this so can’t vouch for the recipe, but it looks like it has potential!”
After all this time, I can hardly see a recipe highlighting one of these two ingredients and not think of Dan and his family. The best part is that it’s become a fun reason to reach out and say hello.
With its unique combination of ingredients, I felt compelled to make the following recipe soon after forwarding it to Dan. Adapted from The Kitchn’s recipe, there’s a little something smoky/salty/tangy plus a hint of crunch to balance the creaminess of the roasted eggplant.
The first time I made this, it occurred to me that, as meaty and satisfying as this dish is on its own, a simple addition of pasta or greens could take it down a whole new path. And while the flavor of this recipe is excellent just after cooking, its true beauty blossoms on day two, after the tantalizing array of flavors has had time to meld.
At this point, it’s equally wonderful cold or reheated. For a filling lunch, I like to stir a few big spoonfuls into a bowl of baby spinach. Or combine the leftovers with freshly cooked pasta or grain of choice for a meatless meal the following night. 🍆
Smoked almonds and smoked paprika add something special to this savory salad, and the crunch from the almonds is a delightful balance to the creamy texture of the eggplant. Not to mention the lemon-soy thing going on…and the cheese…
For another reader favorite eggplant recipe, you might enjoy Crispy Baked Eggplant.
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 2 large eggplants or 3 medium (use the scale when buying—you want about 2 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (56 ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (go grams) honey
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) low-sodium soy sauce or tamari (check for GF as needed)
- 3/4 cup mix of fresh basil and parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (1-3/4 ounces) smoked almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) feta or goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions (optionally, omit and include fresh chives in the herb mix)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment (or lightly grease it).
Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt (I use about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon) and set aside while making the marinade.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cumin. Dab away or drain off any extra water that has beaded up on the eggplant and toss with the marinade. Spread the eggplant in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet, and place on the center oven rack. (No need to clean the bowl at this point.)
Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, or until very tender and lightly browned. Stir and redistribute every 15 minutes. (Note that food tends to cook faster on dark coated baking sheets, and the moisture level varies based on size of eggplant, so this will effect total cooking time. Check a few minutes early and add a few extra minutes if needed.) If you’d like a little extra browning, you may broil for a minute or two at the end, watching very closely to avoid burning. Remove from the oven.
Whisk together the lemon juice and soy sauce. Return the eggplant to the bowl and toss with the lemon juice mixture. Stir in the fresh herbs, smoked almonds, cheese, and scallions. (Tip: For a pretty presentation, reserve some of the add-ins for use as garnish, transfer the eggplant mixture to a serving bowl, and sprinkle the extras over top.)
- Large eggplants are known to have a spongier texture, but this is less pronounced when the produce is fresh. Lightly salting, as described above, draws out some liquid and improves the texture, as does the extended roast time.
- If you’d like to do some of the prep in advance, the olive oil mixture and the lemon-soy mixture can be combined earlier in the day and sit at room temperature. The almonds and feta can also be chopped/crumbled well in advance. You may also chop and salt the eggplant 60-90 minutes before cooking. Note that a longer salting time will result in more moisture being drawn out of the eggplant and may necessitate a shorter roast time.