Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Quinoa Salad with Eggplant & Cucumber

We got our very first eggplant from the garden this week, and it was spectacular! It was a Kamo eggplant, a classic eggplant from Japan, and it weighed in at just a few grams short of a pound. (Why yes, I am a Canadian of a certain generation; why do you ask?)

Anyway, a special eggplant requires a special dish, so I got to work! This was really delicious and it will be made again. I actually thought the only way it could be better was if it had a bit higher proportion of eggplant in it, so feel free to be generous with it. Of course you will need a bit more oil in that case too. I try to keep the oil down to a dull roar when cooking eggplant, but if it doesn't have enough, it doesn't cook to a nice brown, it just sits and sits in the pan doing nothing, then eventually scorching. Apart from the little bit of sesame oil, though, it does provide the oil for the salad.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes advance prep time
plus 20 minutes assembly time

Quinoa Salad with Eggplant & Cucumber

Cook the Quinoa & the Eggplant:
1 cup quinoa
1 2/3 cups water
pinch of salt
450 grams (1 pound) Japanese eggplant
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil

Put the quinoa, water, and salt into a rice cooker, and cook until tender. Let cool. This can be done up to a day ahead. You can also cook it in a pot by bringing it all up to a boil and then reducing the heat to minimum for 15 to 20 minutes. You will need to watch it more carefully, though.

Wash and trim the eggplant, and cut it into 1 cm wide slices. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the eggplant slices on each side until the slices are soft through and well browned. Add more oil when you turn the eggplant slices. I found it easiest to brush each slice with oil as it went into the pan, if it was replacing one that was coming out.

As they are cooked, lay the eggplant slices on a plate to cool. They too can be kept, covered in the refrigerator, until the next day if you wish. Both quinoa and eggplant should be at least cool before you proceed.

Make the Dressing:
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced peeled ginger
hot chile flakes or powder to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Peel and mince the garlic and ginger very finely. Put them in a small mixing bowl and stir in the chile flakes, sugar, and peanut butter. When well mixed, stir in the remaining ingredients, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Finish the Salad:
1 medium slicing cucumber
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Chop the cooled eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Trim and chop the cucumber. You can peel it if you like, but I tend to think this salad could use the boost of green from the skins, so better to pick one with a nice, tender skin and leave it on. Wash, dry, and finely chop the herbs.

Mix the eggplant, cucumber, and herbs with the cooled quinoa. Toss the dressing into the salad.

Last year at this time I made Green Bean & Apricot Salad.

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