One of the things I’ve been fiddling around with last year is the idea of making bruschetta without, you know, bread. I shared a Thanksgiving-inspired version last November, but was itching for a late summer spin on it when I created this. I’m the kind of person who would happily eat appetizers for dinner any day — I’m pretty sure if I had nobody else to feed, I’d have subsisted on nothing but pan con tomate, blistered padrons, pink wine and Gossip Girl season one reruns the entire month of August — but it doesn’t really cut it with a family of three.
Instead, I spend a lot of time throwing things together for the sake of being a grown-up, a grown-up who doesn’t really have an excuse (such as, she hates cooking or doesn’t know how to cook, etc.) not to make dinner but still forgot to make it again, and quite often, these meals involve some element of
roasting the bleep out of well-seasoned vegetables high heat cookery. For the kid, that usually suffices but we grownups get bored more easily, and it’s from that boredom that I started making small, finely chopped and loudly flavored salads and spooning them on top of my roasted vegetable du jour. In this case, it’s eggplant with a Mediterranean-ish topping. We found it completely addictive and less heavy somehow than eating the same on pieces of toast.
This recipe also shows up in the September issue of Everyday Food magazine. One sweltering morning in July, a team of people showed up to my apartment to take pictures of me making this dish. It was kind of an unusual experience, to say the least, as my apartment is tiny, my kitchen is tinier and while the sum total of things I use to take pictures for this site are 1. A counter. 2. A window. 3. A camera, it turns out things are a tad more elaborate among professionals.
This probably explains why magazine photos are consistently shiny, pretty and well-executed and I get away with ones that are more… “rustic”! So I thought I’d share some
neurotic drivel stories about that day, and please, please feel free to skip this part if you understandably never wanted to hear about my lack of fashion sense. First, I should probably explain something that might already be obvious from the lack of photos of me on this site: man, do I hate having my picture taken! I totally panic. “Cameras steal souls, don’t they?” my face always appears to say as I smiled awkwardly. They offered to send over hair and makeup people and I was like, “Oh, ha ha, that’s too high maintenance for me.” [You know, because having your photo in a hugely circulated magazine is a great time to show off how low-maintenance you can be!] I vow to be nothing but high-maintenance from this point forward in fact, I’d like someone to come over right now and make my hair look pretty. Wait, it doesn’t work like that? Drat.
The second thing I should probably explain is that [shockingly] I’m also not exactly a fashion plate. Sometimes I dream about hiring a stylist because I’m so bad at shopping for myself (the last time I counted, had six denim and four corduroy skirts in my closet) but then I realized they’d probably talk me into buying a ridiculously overpriced orange shawl that I’d never actually wear, and I go back to shopping for myself, likely for more denim skirts. Why am I sharing this sad tidbit? Because the day of the shoot, I wore one of my typically innovative outfits (ha) to greet the team at the door and was met with a “So! Let’s go to your closet and pick out an outfit for the shoot, something colorful.” I nervously led them to my closet where they, to their credit, didn’t say a word about the corduroy skirt situation but picked out the one single solitary bright, colorful item within (a dress) and then asked which apron I wanted to wear. It turned out that I also do not own an apron, or I do, but I didn’t know where it was because I hadn’t used it in so many years which sent this team on a 9 a.m apron hunt through Lower Manhattan. What can I say? I am really awesome at this.
At least the cooking part went smoothly. I constantly talk to myself when I cook — “Really, Deb? Are you sure it was a good idea to see if the oven was hot yet by touching the rack with your fingers?” and “Get back here!” to thin slivers of scallion that always roll onto the floor — so I pretty much did what I always do but looked less crazy doing so. Eh, mostly. I hope you’ll find this as easy to throw together as I did. If you have a grill, you should totally turn off your oven and use it instead to cook the eggplant. If it’s suddenly, unfairly fall where you are (pout, NYC, pout) the oven might be more welcome. Pretty dresses, paparazzi and tear sheets are totally optional, but it turns out, are hardly a bad time.
More: Everyday Food has run the interview part of the story over here, if you’d like to read it and if you’d like to hear it — like, from a fancy recording studio and everything, which was surprisingly fun — you can do so via the Everyday Food App, though I think you then have to pay for the issue. Also, I will be on the Everyday Food Radio Show on Martha Stewart Living Radio on SiriusXM on Monday, September 12th at 12:15; I’ll be talking about food blogging. Finally, I’ve always joked that because I’m a blogger, I don’t ever have to leave my sofa but despite this, I actually do go do things from time to time. I’ve started an Events page (there’s a link to it right over there in the sidebar) where I’ll try to list where I’ll be when if you want to come and say hi. This also allows me to keep this here page focused on food and recipes, as I like it best.
One year ago: Grape Focaccia with Rosemary
Two years ago: Chocolate Pudding Pie
Three years ago: Raspberry Breakfast Bars
Four years ago: Hoisin Barbecue Sauce and Lemon Layer Cake
Five years ago: Key Lime Tartlets
Roasted Eggplant with Ricotta and Mint
This is like eggplant bruschetta, except the eggplant is the bruschetta, topped with a Mediterranean summer salsa of a salad.
Feta is a great alternative to ricotta salata. If you’re put off by the sharpness of fresh onion, pour the red wine vinegar over it in a dish, and let it sit for 10 minutes, tossing it from time to time, before adding it to the salad. No need to add additional vinegar if you do. If you don’t like capers, you can substitute green or black olives. If you don’t care for mint, you can substitute flat-leaf parsley. If you don’t care for eggplant, well, thank you for reading along anyway! Ahem, or brush pitas or flatbreads with olive oil, grill them and dollop this salad/salsa on top.
Makes about 4 appetizer/salad portions, assuming people will eat two rounds each.
1 to 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), in 3/4- to 1-inch slices
2 ounces (1/2 cup) chopped or crumbled ricotta salata
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
3 seeded, diced medium tomatoes (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet generously with olive oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Arrange eggplant rounds in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from the pan with no effort. If they’re not, let it cook longer. Once flipped, sprinkle them with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper and return the pan to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes or so, until the undersides match the tops.
[Alternatively, on the grill: Brush eggplant slices with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant slices until slightly charred and tender when pierced with knife, about 5 to 7 minutes per side.]
Meanwhile, mix your ricotta, capers, onion, tomatoes, mint, vinegar and remaining 4 teaspoons olive oil in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning; ricotta salata tends to be quite salty so I don’t find that this dish needs more than a pinch of salt, if that. Add more vinegar, if desired. Add freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
When the eggplant discs are done, arrange them on a serving platter. Scoop a spoonful of the salad over each round. Eat immediately.