Side dishes have never been my forte. I am more the main entrée type of gal -- that is where I sparkle.
Last summer, however, I was at my friend Tanya's house when she was whipping up a last-minute BBQ (a typical weekly occurrence). In between taking sips of her sauvignon blanc and putting Band-Aids on her son's knees, she whipped up a salad that was nothing more than sheer genius.
My friend Tanya and her husband, Bo, are my favorite types of chefs, because they really are not chefs, just real people who love to cook and love food. Their BBQs are rarely planned ahead of time, but also end up being some sort of organized chaos that ends in laughter echoing from their backyard at 3 in the morning.
Tanya is one of the only people who I can actually stand next to in the kitchen and feel like we are actually creating a dish together rather than me dictating a recipe and her attempting to execute it. Bo is the so-called foodie of the two. He's constantly whipping up savory concoctions in his kitchen and on his grill, experimenting with new flavors, fresh herbs from his own garden and random other ingredients he picks up at one of those Asian stores we all love but fear to go into due to the unusually strange aromas billowing out of them.
But I digress, back to the salad. While the men grilled brontosaurus-sized meats outside, I noticed Tanya peeling freshly grilled whole eggplants and tomatoes, and chopping cilantro. She then combined all these ingredients in a square dish, sliced them roughly with a knife and added some salt and cilantro and placed the mixture on the kitchen counter for the women to munch on. I took a bite and was instantly hooked. Holy, Julia Child! It was amazing! This salad was so purely Tanya -- simple, satisfying and delicious.
When I went to compliment her on it, in her usual humble manner, she claimed the recipe was not hers. I told her that only she could convert plain grilled eggplants and grilled vegetables into a meal that impresses everyone.
I promise you, once you make it, you will keep making this simple and savory vegan salad to go along with any of your favorite meals. Between this salad and my Moldovian Eggplant Salad, I am set for the summer outings.
When I recreated this salad at home last weekend, I slathered it up on warm toast and sprinkled on tons more cilantro. I made my famous BBQ Teriyaki Marinated Grilled Chicken alongside it.
Grilled Eggplant Salad
5 Large Eggplants
5 Medium Sized Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes work great for this
1 Large Onion, paper skin removed
2 Large Red Bell Peppers
4 Cloves of garlic, mined on microplaner
1 Bunch of Cilantro, very roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Roast all the vegetables on a grill turned to high or in a 450-degree oven. Making sure to rub them all down with olive oil. And prick the eggplants with a fork to keep them from exploding.
2. The tomatoes and peppers will cook the fastest so keep an eye on them while cooking. They should take about 15- 20 minutes. The eggplants take about 20-25. But again keep an eye on them turning them every 7 minutes or so.
3. Once the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are charred, throw them in a colander. Allow to stand for 15-30 minutes. This makes the extra water seep out so that the salad isn't too watery. Allow to stand for 15-30 minutes. Place the onions on the side.
4. Peel the skin off of all the vegetables except the onions and toss in a square dish. Cut all the vegetables very roughly in the dish. Since they are all so soft they will cut easily.
5. Cut the onion into small dice, roughly and combine with vegetables.
6. Add cilantro, garlic, season to taste and enjoy