Eggplant Salad (version XXIII)

1 eggplant (about 1 pound)
salt for sprinkling on eggplant, plus 1/2 teaspoon
extra-virgin olive oil for oiling baking sheet, plus 2 teaspoons
2 large cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise into slivers
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon crumbled dry mint or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste

Leave the skin on the eggplant, but trim off and discard the stem and navel

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Make slashes about 1/2 inch deep in their flesh on the cuts sides and sprinkle with salt. Place the halves, cut sides down, in a colander. Place the colander in the sink or over a dish and let stand so the bitter liquid drains out of the seeds, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 400º. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil it lightly.

Rinse the eggplant under cold water and pat thoroughly dry with a clean kitchen towel. Slip the garlic slivers into the slashes in the eggplant. Place the eggplant halves cut sides down on the foil-lined sheet. Cover loosely with more foil and bake until completely tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.

Remove eggplant from the oven and let cool somewhat until it can be handled then cut into dices no larger than approximately 1 inch (do not remove the skin). The garlic will have softened and sweetened during the cooking; do not remove it. Place in a serving bowl. Add the 2 teaspoons of salt, mint and the pepper flakes and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4

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