Eggplant parmesan is one of our favorite dishes. (Somehow I didn’t know it existed until the past few years, but I’ve since learned it’s one of the more popular meatless entrées.) While the eggplant in the traditional version is generally breaded and deep fried, we’d found a great version that calls for simply baking the eggplant before layering it with cheese and tomato sauce.
Now that eggplant is in season, I was looking forward to trying it out again. But who wants to make a baked casserole in the heat of summer? Plus, an idea for deconstructed eggplant parmesan got me thinking – why not deconstruct it even further? Enter – the eggplant parmesan salad.
It’s got all the elements of eggplant parmesan: eggplant, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil, bread – and even the greens from the side salad – combined into a single bowl.
The benefits of this version over the traditional? It’s much quicker and easier to prepare, and eating the ingredients fresh without the deep frying makes it a whole lot healthier.
And the taste? So fresh and delicious, I don’t think I’ll need to make the traditional version for a while. (Not until some cooler weather, at least!)
Thanks to Anita of Homestead Growers for growing the delicious eggplant!
Eggplant Parmesan Salad
Serves about 4
Notes: There are several methods of cooking eggplant; we found that broiling was very easy and quick. Sautéing also worked well; we had to add a little more oil in this method to keep the eggplant moist, but the taste was very good. We used an Asian eggplant to get the small rounds in the picture (which is long and thin), but you could use a globe eggplant and cut it into pieces.
Many recipes call for salting the eggplant and letting it stand for about 30 minutes before cooking to remove the bitterness; other research indicated salting is not necessary if the eggplant is fresh and firm. We didn’t notice a difference without salting, so we omitted that step here. Some recipes also call for peeling the eggplant; however, we found that both the Asian and globe eggplants we used tasted just fine with the skin on (though you could certainly remove it if it seems overly tough).
All quantities below are estimates – feel free to adjust to your liking.
What You Need
~1 to 1 1/2 pounds eggplant of any type (to get the small rounds shown above, we used Japanese eggplant)
Cherry tomatoes (about 1 pint)
Spinach or other salad greens
Mozzarella balls (such as those from a grocery olive bar; you also could cut cubes of fresh or deli mozzarella)
Handful fresh basil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper
Homemade croutons (if desired)
1 Broil the eggplant: Preheat a broiler to high, with the rack about 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Cut eggplant into slices. Brush each side with olive oil; place the slices on a baking sheet, and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes total, flipping the slices halfway, until the eggplant is soft. Brush with additional oil if the eggplant dries out. (If you use a globe eggplant, cut the large slices into bite-sized pieces after cooking.) You also can grill the eggplant using this method.
Alternative method – sauté the eggplant: Cut the eggplant into bite-sized chunks. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet; add the eggplant and sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add more olive oil if the eggplant gets too dry. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
2 Prepare the other ingredients: Wash and dry the salad greens. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Cut the mozzarella balls in half (or cube the mozzarella). Chiffonade the basil. Shave the parmesan.
3 Plate the salad: On each plate or bowl, pile a large helping of salad greens. Top with cooked eggplant, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, parmesan shavings, and croutons (if desired). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (or your favorite vinaigrette), and top with a sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.