Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese

by smokinchestnut

Summer is officially here. The season of bugs, birds and wildflowers. The field next door has an abundant amount of the latter (and probably former) so I’ve taken to making wildflower bouquets. But during a segment of Nancy and Kristen’s Garden Conversations – a very local segment consisting of just Nancy, Polaris, and me – Nancy urged me to take a few of the flowers she had just uprooted. So I made a mini bouquet of sweet pea and valerian flowers. Aren’t they lovely? One day when we have our own house, I’m going to take a few tips from Nancy’s garden and plant some valerian. There’s just something about them that I love, from their slender height to the flowers that shower you with delicate white petals if you happen to bump into them.

Then there are the birds. I haven’t been able to snap a very good shot of the male prairie warbler that frequents the kitchen window almost every morning, flitting about and admiring his reflection, but I was able to capture a Carolina wren that was rooting around in the window box. She kept popping her head up, then hopping around, then diving down below. It went on for a while, then she left (which is when I realized my camera settings were not properly set). The originals were severely underexposed but I made the most of it and I’m happy with the end result. Mostly because she looks so cute!

Oh, but you wanted a recipe? Well, then. Allow me to introduce to you one of the best eggplant recipes I’ve had in a very, very long time. We’re partial to a spicy sausage stuffed eggplant recipe but this blew that dish out of the water. Unfortunately, Matthew has been traveling all week and was unable to partake in this most excellent dish, but there are leftovers. Which I may or may not decide to share with him when he gets home…

Overall, it’s a simple dish. Dice the eggplant, bathe them in a smoky, tart marinade then roast them for roughly 40 minutes. The smell that comes out of the oven while they’re roasting is intoxicating. When they’re done roasting you’ll have some of the most perfectly caramelized eggplant pieces I’ve ever seen. Add a splash of lemon juice and soy sauce, mix in chopped parsley and smoked almonds then top with creamy goat cheese and tiny scallion coins.

And suddenly you’re looking at a vegetarian masterpiece. It’s rich and decadent without feeling heavy; the flavors absolutely sing in your mouth. Perhaps like an aria. Yes, I just compared this recipe to an aria, as if I had any idea what I’m talking about. Just make it!

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese
from The Kitchn
serves 4

2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds (I used 4-5 baby eggplants since that’s all the grocery store had)
Kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled and divided
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut eggplant into one-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Lightly toss with kosher salt and let sit while you make the marinade.

For marinade, combine olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, smoked paprika and cumin into a bowl. Whisk to combine. Gently blot away any moisture that has beaded up on the eggplants (I did not have to do this). Pour marinade over eggplant and toss to evenly distribute, then add chopped garlic and toss again.

Spread eggplant out onto a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on countertop. In large bowl, combine lemon juice and soy sauce. Add eggplant, parsley, smoked almonds and half of the goat cheese.

After plating, top with remaining goat cheese and chopped scallions. Best served with bread and a serious love of eggplant.