Thursday, January 24, 2008

Salad Spinner

As if going to my first tea party last week wasn't enough, this week I went to my first official potluck. It took me a few weeks to come up with a dish, but since no one volunteered to make the salad (traditionally considered a major culinary copout), I figured I'd step up to the plate and turn salad on it's head. As a firm believer that a salad is not a meal, I generally eschew them altogether, making it even more difficult for me to come up with something interesting. After mulling around a few ideas including a warm lentil salad, Tuscan white bean salad and even a chipotle coleslaw, I didn't seem any closer to coming up with an outstanding idea.

Finally, the day of the potluck rolled around and I found myself playing tourguide to the 20 potential renters that came to check out my apartment. I was (of course) still feverishly flipping through cookbooks for ideas before leaving for brunch with my girlfriends, when the doorbell rang. The super, his wife, potential renter #7, her friend and her broker waltzed in. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it possible to spend 45 minutes looking around a one room studio, until I saw it happen, and my brunch plans going out the window. Although I finally made it out to brunch and back home, I still didn't have a dish, and what's worse, there were many more potential renters traipsing through my house. Tired of answering their asinine questions ("What's the water pressure like? Does the hallway ever smell?"), I finally turned on the TV and told them to help themselves to a look around. A rerun of an old Kylie Kwong cooking show was on, and suddenly I remembered an intriguing salad from one of her cookbooks.

So, I decided to "accidentally" lock my front door and get down to making Kwong's warm eggplant salad, a recipe that has always caught my eye for two main reasons (even though I'm generally not a huge fan of eggplant). The first is just the idea that it's a warm eggplant salad, and second is the method. The eggplant is partially pickled (just with salt) and then steamed before being topped off with a soy dressing. It turned out great, traveled fairly well, and didn't clash with the other dishes (
those dishes included a delicious baked mac and cheese, and a yummy red beans and rice dish chock full of fragrant and earthy spices like clove and cinnamon). It's really a cool dish, with an interesting texture and lots of flavor. Here's how to make it for yourself:

Warm Eggplant Salad

1 large eggplant, peeled
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp finely sliced spring onion (not pictured)
ground white pepper


1/4 cup malt vinegar
2 Tbsp shao hsing wine or dry sherry
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Cut eggplant into 6 inch strips about 1/2 inch wide. Season on both sides with salt and lay out on a tray in one layer. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, to make the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for two minutes, or until slightly reduced. Set aside.

3. Rinse the eggplant with cold water, gently squeezing out any excess moisture. Steam eggplant for six minutes, then remove from steamer and allow to cool slightly. Spoon dressing over eggplant and top with spring onion and pepper. Enjoy!


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