It’s good to have a slew of healthy, flavorful side dishes in your repetoir. I think that vegetable sides are often the stars of the meal and the steak or chicken is just a slab of protein to be digested to keep us alive. Well, I don’t always feel that way, but when I came up with this salad I realized it would be the center piece of a weekend lunch or quick dinner. In this recipe, the dressing gets an incredible garlic flavor from the molten center of a roasted clove.
This is one of those recipes that will make you into a chef even if you claim not to be. The only actual cooking you need to do is to open your oven door. If you haven’t made anything except toast and whiskey sodas in a while, this might be the recipe to get you back in there. I’m always here to help walk you through it if you’re scared. Also, if dill, parsley or mint offends you, feel free to substitue with cilantro, tarragon or just use less herbs.
Also, if you don’t like fennel you are silly. I hated fennel for years, but somehow when it’s roasted in olive and salt takes on this sweet smoky flavor that’s so good I might even add it to a cocktail. If you absolutely cannot stand fennel, you are welcome to leave it out and replace with onions (just cook them for less time). But you will be sorry.
Roasted Eggplant and Fennel Salad
You will need:
1 medium-sized eggplant
1 large fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves or 3 small ones, whole and still wrapped in skin
3 Tablespoons of chopped herbs, recommended: 1 Tablespoon dill, 1 Tablespoon parsley, 1 Tablespoon mint
1 Tablespoon chopped scallions
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon cumin
1 dash paprika
Salt and pepper
¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Cut the eggplant into one inch cubes and add to a large bowl, toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt (large rock salt if you have it). Slice the fennel into thin frons by slicing it in half first and ensuring each slice has a piece of the core to hold it together, like you would slice an orange. Add this to the bowl of eggplant and toss with the paprika and cumin and the whole garlic. You may want to use more garlic than you’ll need to ensure the cloves stay wrapped in the skin. You will need the molten roasted garlic for the dressing later.
2. Spread the fennel, eggplant and garlic on a baking sheet or large roasting pan in a single layer, adding any extra oil on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes just as the eggplant and fennel are starting to brown. You will want to check it every so often and mix the vegetables around with a spoon.
3. While they are roasting, make the salad. Add the chopped herbs, scallions and pine puts to a large bowl. In a small bowl mix 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon lemon juice with some salt and pepper and set aside.
4. When the eggplant and fennel are sufficiently slightly browned, take them out of the oven to cool. Take the roasted garlic and squeeze out each clove (2-3) into the oil and lemon mixture. It should have the consistency of a paste. Whisk vigorously with a fork and taste, adding more oil or salt if necessary.
5. Add the eggplant and fennel to the bowl of herbs and nuts and toss with the dressing.