This hearty salad can almost serve as a light vegetarian main course. Almost. With crusty bread and cheese, it definitely works as a seasonal lunch or light supper.
Keyword: Eggplant Salad
Author: Molly Watson
2tablespoonssalt, plus 1/2 teaspoon (divided)
3tablespoonsolive oil,plus more for brushing
1/4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
1/8teaspoonred chile flakes(optional)
8ouncesperlini or other small fresh mozzarella
4large stems fresh mint
Cut the eggplant into bite-size chunks. Dissolve the 2 tablespoons of salt in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then add 4 cups cool water. Put the eggplant in the brine, weigh them down with a plate or pot lid on top and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours.
While the eggplant brines, preheat a broiler. Cut the peppers in half; remove and discard the stem and seeds. Flatten them, skin-side up, on a baking sheet (line with parchment paper for easy cleanup, if you like) and broil until the skins are blistered and mostly burnt. Set aside and let cool about 15 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 375°Drain the eggplant and pat it dry. Put the eggplant pieces on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan (again, line with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if you like). Arrange them in a single layer and brush them liberally with olive oil. Roast until browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Put the pine nuts in a small pan and bake them (in the same oven as the eggplanuntil golden, about 10 minutes (watch them carefully, nuts go from toasted to burnt in the blink of an eye).
Peel and mince the garlic. Put it in a large salad bowl along with the sherry vinegar, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and chile flakes, if using. Let side 5 to 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the dressing, and toss to combine.
Remove and discard the peel from the now-cooled peppers, chop them into half-cherry-tomato size pieces and add them to the bowl. Toss to combine.
When the eggplant is cooled, add it to the bowl and toss to combine. Toss in the mozzarella balls (halve them if they’re the bigger ones). Transfer the salad to a serving platter, if you like. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and tear the mint leaves into pieces and scatter on top.
Apple cider vinegar is a tasty substitute for the sherry vinegar.