Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Roasted Eggplant and Cauliflower Salad with Farro, Almonds and Goat Cheese

I keep buying eggplant at my local farmers market because it is only $1 for a giant eggplant. Then it sits in my refrigerator for a week while I try to come up with the next recipe to make with it. First, I made Smitten Kitchen's Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella. It was fantastic and I had it for lunch every day for well over a week.

I wanted to try something different this week, and I came across a recipe for Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese on The Kitchn. I thought it sounded really tasty, but I wanted to make some changes, highlighted below.

The dish turned out so well! It tastes incredible! It is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy, silky and chewy. I had made it up for my lunch for the week, but I kept on walking by and sneaking tastes. As soon as I made it I decided I needed to get another eggplant at the next farmers market, just to make it again. I have now made it two times in the past week, and it is my new favorite lunch.

  • I thought that 1/3 cup of olive oil sounded high, and reduced it to 3 tablespoons while keeping everything else the same. 
  • I didn't have any fresh garlic so I used jarred crushed garlic, around 1.5 tsp of it. 
  • I took a trick from the recipe from last week, and I salted the chopped eggplant heavily and let it sit in a colander for 20-30 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Then, I rinsed and dried it well. This helps reduce some of the water content so it roasts more evenly. It is also probably why it took less time for mine to roast (noted below). 
  • My gigantic eggplant was 1.5 lbs so I used 1/2 lb of cauliflower. I think the two vegetables work really well together once roasted, plus it was another thing I got at the farmers market! If you don't like cauliflower or would prefer to only use eggplant, then use 2 lbs of just eggplant and it will be just as delicious.
  • I did not have smoked almonds so I used raw almonds that I then chopped and toasted in a 350 F oven for ~8 minutes
  • I don't love parsley, and never have it on hand, so I omitted it. I did not miss it. 
  • The green onions are not optional - they add such a nice flavor to the whole dish that I think you must include them. I mixed them into the dish instead of sprinkling on top, mostly because I misread the recipe, but I'm glad I did - you can taste them in every bite.
    Pro tip - after you use the green part, stick the white part (the root) in some water and they will continue to grow! 
  • My lemon was giant (yes, also from the farmers market) so I only needed 1/2 of it to get 2 tbsp of juice
  • If you don't have fresh lemon juice, you can use bottled lemon juice (this is what is pictured below)
  • I roasted the eggplant for less time than suggested since I didn't want it to completely fall apart while mixing everything. I roasted the eggplant for 25 minutes, stirring it after the first 15 minutes. I roasted the cauliflower for 35 minutes, stirring after the first 15 minutes and again at the 25 minute mark. 
  • I wanted to bulk this up a little to make it heartier as a meal. I cooked some pearled farro and mixed it in. Note that farro cooks differently if it is pearled, semi-pearled, or not pearled at all (I forget what it is actually called then). Mine is pearled and cooks in 15 minutes. I think it is easiest to cook farro just like pasta - to throw it in salted boiling water and cook until al dente, then drain. If you don't have farro, feel free to add in some brown rice or your favorite whole grain. 
  • I really liked the creaminess from the goat cheese, so I mixed all of it in while the dish was still warm and it mostly melted. If you would prefer separate crumbles, then wait until everything has cooled to add, or crumble some on top while you are eating. 
Roasted Eggplant and Cauliflower Salad with Farro, Almonds and Goat Cheese
Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs eggplant (2 small or 1 really big one)
Kosher salt
1/2 lb cauliflower
1/2 cup raw almonds (untoasted and unsalted)
1/2 cup pearled farro
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1.5-2 tsp of the jarred stuff)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions/green onions, green tops only
2 oz goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 F. If you also have a toaster oven, preheat that to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets and one small baking sheet with foil.

Cut up the eggplant in a 1 inch dice. Add to a colander, either set in the sink or over a large bowl, and sprinkle with kosher salt generously in multiple layers. Let the eggplant drain a little while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. I like small pieces because you increase the surface area (more browning) and it is easier to eat.

Roughly chop the nuts. If you have a toaster oven, roast at 350 F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep a close eye on them since they can burn very quickly! If you don't have a toaster oven, then start off with your regular oven at 350 F and cook them in there. Once the nuts are done, set them aside to cool. If you used your regular oven, turn it up to 400 F.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add your farro, and cook according to package instructions. If you are using pearled farro like I did, it should cook in about 15 minutes. Semi-pearled will take longer, and whole farro (not pearled at all) will take the longest. Once it has finished cooking, dump it into a separate colander to drain.

In a small bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine.

Rinse off the eggplant and then pat dry with paper towels. Add to a large bowl, and pour the marinade over it. Toss well, and then quickly transfer the coated eggplant to one of your prepared baking sheets. If you leave the eggplant in the marinade for too long, it will soak up all of it, leaving none for your cauliflower.

Next toss the cauliflower in the remaining marinade, and pour that on the second large baking sheet. Put both baking sheets in the oven. After 15 minutes, stir everything very well. Put the baking sheets back in for an additional 10 minutes. At this point, the eggplant should be done (golden brown and soft without being completely collapsed). Stir the cauliflower well and put in for an additional 10 minutes, or until soft and caramelized.

Now it's time to mix everything together. Add your farro, eggplant and cauliflower to your large bowl (use the same one you tossed the veggies in before cooking). Pour the lemon juice and soy sauce over them, and toss gently. Add in the green onions, toasted almonds, and goat cheese and toss again to distribute all of the ingredients.

Either enjoy immediately, or let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. This is best served warm, and reheats well in the microwave.

Wondering what the white stuff is on the fork?
That would be the last bit of goat cheese, scraped out of its package.
We really like goat cheese in my house