Many of us try to get our 7-10 servings of vegetables in a day, but, lets be honest, it can be a challenge. In the winter, regular red leaf lettuce salad combinations can get tedious and boring after a while. Joshua and I try to get 3 to 4 servings at breakfast, which makes it a much easier task for the rest of the day.
If you’re trying to get all of your veggies from local sources it can be even harder unless you live in California or some tropical area. Seasonal choices in those areas are a lot more exciting then those we get to choose from in Canada. A hundred mile diet becomes a lot more challenging especially in the fruits and vegetable department. Our local farmers market is only selling pea shoots, wheat grass, leeks, squash, onions, garlic, swiss chard and kale. And while we love our local farmers, I am not opposed to sourcing some of our vegetables from other sunny places in the world.
An interesting thing I learned about eggplants is that botanically they are classified as berries. Who knew? So, technically speaking, this is more of a fruit salad than a veggie salad. Oh well. I’ll let the scientists debate while I’m busy eating.
The Eggplant Love/Hate Debate
When it comes to eggplant its a love/hate relationship for the majority of people. The good news is that the usual reason for not liking them is texture related.
Yet, there are a variety of eggplants out there and a variety of eggplants means a slightly different texture with all of them. There are tons of varieties ranging from white to orange and even multiple colored varieties. Take Chinese eggplant for example. It is a long slim version of the one we typically see in grocery stores in North America, almost resembling a purple cucumber, and has a lighter purple than what you are used to seeing. These are perfect for roasting in slices. The flesh to skin ratio allows it to hold its shape nicely and doesn’t seem to get as slimy or mushy. The seeds are smaller which help contribute to a better texture.
The Indian eggplants are also quite fun. They are small and about the size of a large kiwi. Again the skin to flesh ratio means that it holds together nicely even when the inside is a nice golden color and the flesh is soft and buttery. The seeds are slightly large in this variety meaning its buttery texture is more pronounced than its Chinese relative. This recipe can be made with any variety you like but I recommend the two types mentioned above.
Traditionally, salting eggplant has always been recommended before cooking. The salting process know as “degorging’ reduces the amount of fat absorbed, but more importantly reduces the bitterness. In modern varieties this is no longer necessary. Its important to note that the fat that is absorbed is what gives this “berry/vegetable” its richness and complex flavor.
Roasted Eggplant and Basil Salad
Serves 1 person. Multiply accordingly.
- 2 Indian Eggplants per person or the equivalent
- 4 small tomatoes or 6 cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium sized boccaccini ball or equivalent
- basil leaves
- balsamic reduction (instruction to follow), to drizzle
- olive oil, to drizzle
- arugula or greens, optional
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the eggplant in half on a diagonal. Brush the inside flesh liberally with olive oil. Place the eggplant cut side down in a baking dish. Pick the tomatoes with a fork and place them along side the eggplant and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the underside of the eggplant becomes golden. Meanwhile make balsamic reduction.
In a small frying pan pour a 1/4 cup (or as much as you like, use a whole bottle if you really feel like stocking up) of balsamic vinegar. Most recipes call for a little sugar, I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ve tried it both ways and it works out the same without. Bring the vinegar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and remove from heat once 70 % of the liquid has evaporated. You’ll notice a syrupy consistency. If you reduce it too much, add a teaspoon of balsamic to thin it a bit. For a 1/4 cup this takes maybe 5 minutes, so watch it closely.
Allow the syrup to cool before using. This is a very small amount to make so it will cool very quickly.
Slice the boccaccini into 4 or 5 slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant, tomatoes, and boccaccini on a plate, scatter with basil leaves and drizzle with balsamic reduction. If you want to make a meal out of this, add a cup or 2 of greens, like arugula, spinach or lettuce.