Eggplant is one of those controversial vegetables that people either love or hate. I think a large part of why it gets such a bad rap is that it’s a fairly difficult vegetable to work with. Without the right technique it can end up tough, spongy and dry, or watery and flavorless, or just plain greasy. I’ve shared a few of my favorite eggplant dishes here before, like Baba Ghanoush and Eggplant Dengaku, but today I wanted to share a technique for making a salad inspired by Eggplant Caponata.
While I love a rich, flavorful traditional Caponata, it can be a bit of work, and isn’t quite as light as I’d like during the warmer months of the year. This salad still includes loads of creamy pan-fried eggplant, but I’ve topped them with a fresh relish made of red bell peppers, sweet onions and tomato. Aside from providing a stunning juxtaposition of colors, the relish is crisp, sweet and sour which brings an enjoyable contrast in taste and texture to this dish.
To keep the relish for getting watery, I borrowed a technique I developed for my pico de gallo recipe and added a room temperature thickening agent, in this case, chia seeds. They provide just enough viscosity for the relish, and you don’t even need to cook it.
- 2.8 ounces red bell peppers (~1/2 pepper, diced)
- 2.3 ounces sweet onion (~1/4 sweet onion, minced)
- 4.6 ounces tomato (~1 small tomato, diced)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 pound Japanese eggplants (trimmed and quartered lengthwise)
- flaky salt (to taste)
- flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
- To make the relish, stir together the bell peppers, onions, tomato, vinegar, chia seeds, sugar and salt. Set aside to allow the relish to thicken.3
- Prepare a paper-towel lined rack.
- Add the olive oil to a frying pan and heat over medium-heat until hot. Add half the eggplant with one cut-side down and fry until golden brown, turn the eggplant so the other cut-side is down and fry until that side is golden brown as well. Transfer to a paper towel lined rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- Once all the eggplant has been fried, pat the eggplant with some paper towels to remove any excess oil and then generously salt the eggplant with your favorite flaky salt (kosher or Maldon work well).
- To assemble the salad, place the eggplant on a plate and then top with the red pepper relish. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley.
This recipe was originally posted on PBS Food.