Mediterranean Aubergine Salad

Aubergine – also known as Eggplant – is a gorgeous vegetable.

Now, I am most likely biased, because I love all things purple, and aubergines are an amazing deep dark shade of it, but you have got to agree that the deep color and gloss make them stand out among vegetables like a silk evening dress among T-shirts and jeans.

Of course, if color was the only thing going for it, it’d never have become one of my favorite things to eat, regardless of what is said about how people eat with their eyes.  It’s not true – we don’t eat with our eyes.  We taste with them and decide to take the next step, true – but eating is done with the mouth (and a good thing, too).

In any case, other than its beautiful color and surface, aubergines have the benefits of being wonderfully delicious, good for low-GI diets, and very filling.  The above, along with its wonderful eating quality, fiber content and how well it takes dry preparation, all make it rather perfect for use in any generic LCHF diet.

The problem – not insurmountable one, mind you – is that if cooked improperly, aubergines (like many other vegetables) turn to awful mush and can sometimes have a bitter aftertaste.  The up side is that this undesirable result is very easy to avoid.

The preparation routine for aubergine, whether you plan to grill it, fry it, or bake it into gratin, must start 30-60 min before you actually do the hot part of the cooking.  What you do is wash and dry the aubergine, slice it crosswise or lengthwise (whatever your recipe calls for), rub or sprinkle it with a small amount of salt and rest on a plate to drain the excess water for about an hour, but at minimum 30 minutes.  Before frying or grilling or assembling the gratin, take a bit of kitchen paper towel and wipe or blot each slice on both sides, then pop the aubergines into pan, oven or onto grill pan, and there you go.  The draining of juice and subsequent wiping not only makes the aubergine crisper and lighter, but also eliminates any possible bitter aftertaste from it, like magic.

One of my favorite ways to eat aubergine is as a lunch salad, the way I’ve had it many many times back in Israel.  The recipe for it is more a set of loose instructions than a recipe, but here it is – such as it is.

Serves 2 hungry people for lunch (or for dinner with a protein portion of some sort).

For dressing:

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic

For salad itself:

  •  1 medium aubergine – sliced crosswise, salted, drained for an hour and patted dry with paper towel
  • 2 large handfuls of arugula (rucola)
  • 1 red or orange or yellow bell pepper (paprika), deseeded and sliced into bite-sized pieces or thin slivers
  • 1-2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 10cm of cucumber, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan, or other hard cheese
  • Some chopped parsley or fresh thyme

What to do:

  • Place arugula in the salad bowl.
  • Add chopped and sliced vegetables.
  • Preheat a non-stick frying pan and add a little bit of canola or peanut oil.
  • Fry the aubergine in batches, in a single layer without crowding the pan, flipping once or twice throughout the process, until a little colored on both sides.  Place cooked aubergines into the salad bowl as you go.
  • When aubergines are all done, mix the dressing.  If you are not worried about smell of garlic, press the garlic fresh into the lemon juice, add salt, pepper and olive oil, and whisk to mix, then pour over the salad and toss to combine.
  • If you do not want to smell of garlic so much, slice the garlic cloves thinly and heat up the olive oil in the pan which you cooked the aubergines in.  Fry the garlic in the olive oil on medium heat until fragrant and just beginning to color at the edges, then add the hot oil with garlic to the salad bowl, pour the lemon juice over it, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley or thyme and cheese, and you are ready.

Serve with a slice of crusty bread or a warmed up pitta bread – or on its own for a light and low-GI lunch.

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