I love eggplant and it especially excels when its given a smoky flavour. The best way to do that is by blackening or charring it – ideally over a charcoal grill but a gas grill or stove-top works pretty good too. Broiling eggplant in the oven doesn’t do the job, save your time. When charring eggplants, I always prick them with a fork or a knife because often (but not always) they burst if you do not pierce them. Tough this cooking business, huh?
Since the eggplant is charred I also blackened some red peppers because I love them with crusty bread and Feta cheese and in this instance, they are going to join the smoky eggplant doing double-duty in this hearty salad that becomes creamy with the use of eggs or mayo. Eggplant is like a sponge and in this case they are absorbing garlic, chives, extra-virgin olive oil and good red wine vinegar.
This salad is rounded-out with some ground walnuts and topped with some fried Graviera cheese, the Gruyere of Greece. A firm Kasseri, Kefalograviera or Halloumi cheese would also work in a pinch! I’m using a slender Japanese eggplant because it is sweet and rarely any bitterness. Japanese eggplants are similar to the DOP Tsakonian eggplants from Leonidio, Arcadia.
1 Tsakonian or slender Japanese eggplant
1 clove of garlic, minced
approx. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 finely chopped chives (or scallions)
1 cup of cubed Graviera cheese
1 cup of bitter greens (arugula), rinsed & pat-dried
1 head of Romaine lettuce, hand-torn, rinsed & pat-dried
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 roasted red peppers
fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill (or gas stove-top) and poke the eggplant a few times and char/blacken the entire surface of the eggplant. Simultaneously char/blacken the red peppers in the same fashion (you do not have to pierce the peppers). Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic and place the charred eggplant on a plate to cool.
- Once the eggplant has cooled, slice it open with a knife and remove the smoky meat with a spoon and roughly chop and place in a bowl. Add the minced garlic, chives, pinch of salt and the olive oil and vinegar in stages while stirring. Adjust with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Remove the cooled peppers from the bowl and peel the charred skins and discard along with the stems and seeds. Slice and toss in some sea salt and olive oil and reserve.
- Dip your cubes of Graviera cheese in a bowl of water then dredge in all-purpose flour and then place some oil in a pan and fry the cheese for a bout a minute a side or until golden. Fry in batches and reserve on paper-lined platter.
- To assemble your salad, add about 1/4 cup of the dressing to the greens and toss until incorporated. Add more dressing to taste, some ground walnuts and toss and divide and serve or present in a large bowl or platter. Arrange the ribbons of red peppers on top along with the fried Graviera cheese and serve. Serve with a chiiled Boutari Moschofilero.
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