Eggplant Panzanella

EggplantPanzanillaSalad“I’m craving eggplant,” Stephanie said, exactly two minutes before Katie arrived with a big basket of Tecolote Farm’s gorgeous purple-black  teardrop shaped black beauty eggplants, and the squatter, chunky, purple and white variety too.  Tecolote’s eggplant is never bitter, the skins always perfectly unblemished, taut, and shiny–truly one of summer’s greatest treasures.  Our favorite eggplant recipes originate from warm, exotic locales–the Mediterranean, Asia, Northern Africa.  Stephanie made a rich, delicious Asian eggplant stir-fry with a spicy peanut sauce.  The velvety sauce clung to meaty eggplant bites rapturously, and the whole dish was just as delicious as a cold salad for lunch.  I had my eye on those black beauties too, and thought I might rework one of my favorite summer dishes.  Panzanella is a classic Italian recipe–thrifty and delicious–made with almost-overrripe tomatoes and going-stale bread.  I discovered I love it just as much with eggplant and cucumbers–substituting parsley for the usual basil and adding feta cheese pushes the recipe closer to Morocco, but is certainly no less delicious!

1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2″ vertical slices

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes

1/4 c. chopped parsley

2 c. cubed ciabatta

olive oil, for brushing

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Shallot, cut into think slices

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1/3 c. olive oil

2 Tbs. crumbled feta

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and grill on grill pan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and cool.  Toss ciabatta cubes with olive oil and cook in preheated 350 oven until golden.  Place lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and minced garlic in a small bowl, then lowly drizzle in olive oil and whisk until emulsified.  Cut cooled eggplant into large cubes, and toss with cucumber, shallot, parsley, ciabatta cubes, and dressing.  Sprinkle feta on top.

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