Vegetarian Eggplant Salad

3 medium eggplants
1/4 cup olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
pinch of ground black pepper
juice of one lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 ripe tomato, cut in wedges
black olives
1 small onion, chopped

Preheat oven to broil.

Pierce eggplant skin in several places with a fork. Arrange onto a broiling pan and place under the broiler. Broil until eggplants are soft and skin is charred. Turn the eggplants once during broiling. (They will leak a good deal of liquid.) Broiling should take about 30-45 minutes.

While eggplants are cooking, prepare a place to drain them. (It's necessary to remove the bitter liquids before using.) We use a serving platter with one wide end resting on a book to elevate it about 2 inches, and place some paper towels under the lower end to catch excess drips. When eggplants are done, place them on the prepared set-up and allow to drain for at least 15 minutes, then press with a fork or wooden spoon to expel any remaining liquid. Trim off the top stem end and bottom flower end, and peel off the skin. Puree the eggplant in a blender or process in a food processor until smooth. It may be easier to do this in two batches.

Pour eggplant puree into a serving bowl and stir in the oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice until well-mixed. Serve immediately or chill for later. Garnish the bowl with tomatoes and olives. Serve the onion in a separate bowl for those who prefer to mix it into the eggplant on their own plate.

Makes 4 servings.

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