MEDITERRANEAN SWEET AND SOUR EGGPLANT SALAD

Yield: About 5 cups, serving 6–8

This is a great picnic or al fresco salad that is also delicious served on crostini and as a topping for almost any grilled or crisply fried fish or meat. I also love to toss this with cooked pasta, either hot or cold. I’m oven-roasting the eggplant here but you could also grill it, which would add a nice smoky flavor. I’m also using canned tomatoes because, frankly, most of the fresh tomatoes we get in the market are pretty tasteless. If you grow tomatoes or have a farmers’ market near you, by all means use fragrant, ripe, fresh tomatoes in place of the canned.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium eggplants (2 pounds), ends removed and sliced about ½ inch thick
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large white onion (¾ pound), cut in large dice
  • 2 tablespoons slivered garlic
  • 2 cups diced fresh dead-ripe tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons each coarsely chopped mint and parsley
  • Garnish: Baby spicy greens such as arugula and toasted pine nuts.

TO PREPARE

Brush eggplant slices liberally on both sides with 4 tablespoons or so of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a baking sheet or sheets. Roast in a preheated 425° oven for 18–20 minutes or until lightly browned and just cooked through. Chop into ¾-inch or so chunks and set aside. Add remaining olive oil to a large sauté pan and cook the onions and garlic over moderate heat until softened and just beginning to color, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, vinegar and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Stir in the eggplant, mint and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool, cover and allow to sit for an hour or so for the flavors to marry. Can be made ahead and stored covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

TO SERVE

Serve at room temperature with a garnish of spicy young greens and a scattering of pine nuts.

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