When it comes to bruschetta, I don’t know why tomatoes get all the love. Right next to them at the market, eggplant is sulking… or at least I’d be if I always got stiffed in the Breezy Light Summer Appetizer with Wine department by my fruity field buddies. I got thinking about an eggplant topping for garlic-rubbed, olive oil drizzled toasts last week when I was still on vacation and had nothing but the ocean’s horizon to consider for entire minutes of the day when this constantly-in-motion 11 month-old rested his eyes for a but all I knew is what I didn’t want: a puree, because while there are many great ones, there’s just so much gray and heavy about them and I didn’t want it to need tomatoes to make it work because hey, I love tomatoes but was insistent that eggplant can be awesome on its own.
It wasn’t until I was back in my kitchen this week (reunited with my very sharp knives) that I started puttering around with what I had on hand — namely some stragglers leftover from the previous week’s farmers market fest, some crumbly feta and purple scallions — to make the toasts happen. I roasted the eggplant, doused it with red wine vinegar, tossed everything together and piled it on toasts and this, this is the kind of mid-summer snack I want with my glass of wine. Oh man, I almost typed whine. Being back from vacation has been rough.
If you’re in the kind of place where cooking something that doesn’t directly yield a dinner plan isn’t for you, I think there are a lot of ways to bulk this up. With some extra whisked up red wine vinegar and olive oil, it could make a great farro salad. You could also nest this in big cup-like leaves of butter lettuce (again, with extra dressing). I’m sensing some serious sandwich potential, possibly with a sliced hard-boiled egg or a couple slices of proscuitto. Throw in some whole wheat orzo (and maybe some capers or slivers of olives), and you’ve got an earnest pasta salad too. Or you can just eat the salad straight: we love a simple summer dinner spread of a salad like this, some olives and cornichons, cured meats and a sliced baguette, or pretty much anything that requires as little advanced planning as possible.
One year ago: Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting and Melon Agua Fresca
Two years ago: Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs (these are among my top three favorite meatballs ever; you should make them!)
[New!] Four years ago: Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Eggplant Salad Toasts
Makes about 8 toasts; double the recipe if you’d like to eat the salad straight or use it in one of the ways suggested above
1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for oiling baking sheet
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled crumbled feta
1 scallion, thinly sliced
8 1/2-inch slices of baguette, brushed with olive oil (I used 1-inch slices in the photos, then decided they were too thick)
1 small clove garlic, peeled and halved
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or roasting pan. Toss eggplant, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and a generous amount of black pepper together in a medium bowl until evenly coated. Spread on prepared baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, moving pieces around occasional so they evenly brown. For a cold salad, let the eggplant cool a bit before mixing it with red wine vinegar, feta and scallion. For a warm salad where the feta glues itself to the eggplant a bit, toss the vinegar, feta and scallion together when the eggplant just comes out of the oven. You’ll want to eat the warm salad quickly.
Broil or toast baguette slices then rub them with a garlic clove before heaping on eggplant salad.