23 October 2007

Notes on an Eggplant

"Eggplant, basil, spinach, & chile salad" is on permanent earmark status in my copy of Quick & Easy Healthy Eating. The page is stained with past successes (and at least one abysmal failure). Smudged marginal notes hungrily circle the printed words. They advise not to mistake garlic "clove" for garlic "bulb" (a serious misreading, i.e. my abysmal failure, which led to sweating vampire repellent for an entire week), to use less chile powder (much, much, much less!), to remember to use a seriously big bowl for the mixing steps or risk flinging yogurt-soaked spinach into a lit gas burner.

The last time I made this, my last summer vacation ever was wilting away in 90 degree heat and sticky Baltimore humidity. My friends and I were ready to scatter once more, some more permanently than others, as college terms opened and far-away jobs beckoned. There was time enough yet for one more backyard barbeque.

I consider that barbeque a success. Nearly half of the prepared food ended up leftover and organization blew out the window along with the broiler's billowing smoke. The boys, who should have, in theory, eaten the most food, were busy manning the kebab grill or running on all liquid diets. But good food was shared by good people, and we all had fun making it. And making fun of each other while we made it. One of the dishes served was my version of Hugo Arnold's "Eggplant, basil, spinach, & chile salad."

Last week's farmer's market yielded two lovely eggplants and a batch of pleasant memories to spur me into the kitchen to test the feasibility of grilling eggplants without a grill. Previously, I've always done it on a broiler pan (which without fail resulted in the previously mentioned billowing smoke and required a helper to constantly fan the smoke alarm). The toaster oven actually works better. You end up trading pretty grill lines for a less hectic, less smoky kitchen – a win-win situation in my book. I'll definitely be adding this one to my swarm of marginal notes.

Eggplant Basil Salad

(adapted from a recipe by Hugo Arnold)

Foraged from the dining hall:

1 cup cherry tomatoes

½ cup sunflower seeds

4 lemon wedges

Bought from the store or otherwise:

2 medium eggplants

1 bag baby spinach (on sale for $1.00 – score!)

1 cup plain yogurt

salt and black pepper

cayenne pepper

3 cloves garlic

olive oil


  1. Cut eggplant ¼ inch segments, hotdog-ways. Baste generously with olive oil and broil 3 minutes per side at 450O F on Toast setting. Let cool and slice into bite-size pieces.
  2. Whisk yogurt, 3 Tablespoons olive oil, mashed garlic, juice from the lemon slices, and spices (about ¼ - ½ teaspoon each, to taste). Toss with eggplant, tomatoes, and spinach leaves.
  3. Serve chilled and top with sunflower seeds.

1 comment:

AJ Star said...

i don't even like eggplant, but this looks delicious. i think the picture of your cookbook is really valuable. it definitely illustrates your passion for cooking. i've never thought to make notes in my cookbooks before! i'm always just hoping i can remember what changes i make to recipes. yours is a much better method.