I’ve been keeping a hungry eye on one particular plant in the corner of our veggie patch. It shot up quickly, its deep purple stems thickening and extending into large, violet-edged leaves. Crinkly, delicate mauve flowers opened with a shock of yellow stamen protruding from their centre, promising the arrival of my favourite nightshade – eggplant. The bulbous beauties have indeed developed, but are not quite ready for the picking. So when I saw a basket of oddly shaped organic eggplants at the market, I was happy that other plants could feed my craving.
If eggplant is in season, this salad is soon to be served on my table. It’s one of those familiar recipes that springs to mind when I’m standing in the supermarket on a Tuesday night, devoid of inspiration for dinner. All I need is an eggplant, a bunch of parsley, a detour down the nut aisle and the rest of the ingredients are in the pantry at home.
Eggplant has an unfair reputation for being fussy, what with the “to salt or not to salt” predicament. If your eggplant is overripe or seedy, it can taste bitter. Cutting up your eggplant and placing it in a colander with a decent sprinkling of salt for 30 minutes will remove that bitterness (wash, drain and dry your eggplant before continuing with your recipe). I have never bothered doing that with this salad. I just chop the eggplant into cubes, let its thirsty flesh soak up a generous bath of olive oil and roast it until it’s slightly charred, sweet and tender to the touch. The balsamic vinegar counterpunches that sweetness while the pine nuts and sultanas add texture.
This salad is extremely versatile. It can be served warm or at room temperature which makes it an excellent partner to a slow-roasted leg of lamb on a cold day or barbecued lamb chops in a heat wave. It can also stand alone atop a charred piece of bread to make a delicious crostini or enveloped by soft, warm pita with a dollop of hummus and a handful of olives for lunch.
Eggplant Salad with Parsley, Sultanas and Pine Nuts
- 450g (1lb) eggplant
- 150ml (1/4 pint) olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 50g (2oz) pine nuts
- 50g (2oz) sultanas or raisins
- A big handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Pre-heat oven to 220C/425F.
Cut the eggplant into cubes and toss thoroughly with the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the eggplant on a large baking tray (or two smaller ones) in one layer, making sure there’s no overlapping pieces so they all have room to cook evenly. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cubes are golden and soft to touch.
While your eggplant is roasting, toast up your pine nuts (taking care not to let them catch and set fire to your kitchen).
In a big bowl, gently mix the golden eggplant with the remaining ingredients. Check for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe from Food from the Place Below.