One of my favorite cookbooks on my bookshelf is titled “Plenty” by Chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I was first drawn to it by the beautiful photography but, after thumbing through the pages, I soon realized that the holistic nature of the foods he prepares is in exact keeping with how I want to eat and how I want to feed my family. The recipe I’m making today is a slightly altered one that he and Chef Sami Tamimi prepared together for a 2014 Bon Appétit feature. I now have three of his cookbooks and have made many of his dishes. Yotam seems to be a master at catching food at the peak of its season and highlighting the natural flavors to bring out the best in its natural simplicity.
For today’s Cooking with Heinen’s post, I wanted to highlight some of the food you see when you first walk in the door. The local produce grown on farms not far from where we live. The fact that Heinen’s brings these local, homegrown bounties to the store allows us to have a farmers market at our disposal at any time. In these salads we used local eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. The fried eggplant salad was gone in an embarrassingly short amount of time. I think I saw my son physically move my daughter over so he could get the last bite. We will definitely add this salad to our meal rotation as long as these ingredients are in season. I hope you’ll try it and that you will enjoy it as much as my family did.
Fried Eggplant, Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Eggplant is like a sponge. Salting it dries out moisture and firms up the flesh and deep-frying it ensures it cooks evenly until creamy throughout. I assure you that this process is well worth your time.
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
- 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley with tender stems
- one clove garlic, chopped*
- two small green chiles, such as Thai; seeds removed, chopped, divided*
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
- 3/4 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
- about 2 cups Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 pound small tomatoes (about eight), cut into wedges
- 1/2 pound Parisian cucumbers (about three), sliced
*I altered the recipe to suit my family who does not care for spicy chiles. I doubled the garlic and omitted the chile.
- Purée the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and half of the chiles and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Season Herb oil with salt and set aside.
- Whisk yogurt, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and set yogurt sauce aside.
- Place cut eggplant in a colander, set in the sink, season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and let sit 30 minutes to drain, then pat dry.
- Fit a medium pot with a deep fry thermometer. Pour the vegetable oil to measure 2 inches, heat over medium heat until the thermometer registers 375° F. (note:I didn’t have a thermometer. I let it get hot then between batches let it get hot again before adding the next batch. It worked fine. If you overcrowd the pot the eggplant will not brown. I did it in three batches.)
- Working in batches and returning oil to 375°f between batches, fry eggplants turning often until golden brown and tender, about five minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon transfer the eggplants to paper towels and drain. Season with salt and let cool.
- Combine eggplants in a large bowl with tomatoes, cucumbers and remaining chiles. Drizzle with some reserve herbal oil and toss to combine. Season salad with salt. Spoon reserved yogurt sauce onto a platter. Top with salad mixture and drizzle with more herbal oil.
- The herb oil and yogurt sauce can be made one day in advance. I covered and chilled separately.
Growing up we always had freshly canned vegetables, homemade jams and plenty of homemade pickles. Cucumbers were always a staple in our refrigerator. Cucumber salads were usually on the table at dinner. My mom would soak the sliced cucumbers in a salty brine (and by salty brine I mean 1/4 cup of salt to maybe a tablespoon of water) let it sit while the rest of the dinner was being prepared, then drain and rinse them. This ensured that when she made the cucumber salad they were extra crunchy and had some of that salty flavor soaked into it. Often times she would mix whatever was in the garden, dill, fennel, onions or tomatoes adding vinegar and sometimes a bit of sugar. This Cucumber Dill Salad is a throwback to my dinner memories from home.
Cucumber Dill Salad
- 1/8 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- one English cucumber, sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- Add vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to a jar with the lid and shake well to mix.
- Add onion to the dressing and let pickle for 30 minutes.
- Stir together cucumber and dill in a bowl, drain excess water.
- Toss salad with dressing and onions just before serving.