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Any mention of eggplant conjures up memories of a beige-looking plop on a plate. Often, this was our lunch at school - for what seems an eternity ago- the 'Saint Famille' boarding school. For a seven-year-old (me) and a six-year-old (my brother)- two very picky eaters at the time (that fact remains accurate for my brother to this day), it was a horrifying sight. The worse part was we couldn't leave the dining room until our plates were emptied. This meant that we both had to eat the stuff. I even remember Soeur May (Sister May) - the strict one- patiently waiting for us one time for over an hour, until we ate that food. You might guess what happened afterwords, although in most cases, we learned to pretend to eat it and just put it in our uniform pocket. Now, with a memory like that, how can one be expected to like this purple vegetable, as cute as it is. In fact, for a long time the thought of eggplants would make me cringe.
Well, in a twisted turn of events, the universe sends me a husband who just loves them. Since then, I have started experimenting with them and was able to come up with some really good, tried and true recipes. And the funny thing is, once I tried them my way, I actually liked them. However, it is not the case for my brother, his trauma was apparently a more severe one.
This is a classic salad that holds great potential for a delicious appetizer, served on a crostini, a first course or a light lunch. The recipe is very easy and takes minimal time to prepare. Begin by grilling (or roasting) a medium to large eggplant, on all sides until it becomes very soft to the touch and the skin dries and crumbles. Remove and place in an airtight container for a few minutes. This will ease the peeling. Let cool before skinning it. Dice all the vegetables and herbs into bite size pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Chop the eggplant in same size pieces, add to vegetables. Add the pomegranate arils and the pine nuts (toasted). Gently toss in the dressing as to not smash the eggplant. Tada!
Grilled Eggplant Salad
1 med/large eggplant
2 armenian cucumbers (approx. 1 cup), sliced in half moons
1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes (or cherry or grape or 1 large tomato), cut in half
2 tbsp basil, freshly sliced
2 tbsp baby mint leaves, whole (or regular mint chopped)
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (scant) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 1 lemon)
2 tbsp sesame paste (tahini)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp garlic, minced (1 clove)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Drizzle over salad and toss gently. This salad refrigerates well for one day.