Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eggplant and Barley Salad

Not too long ago, I wrote about Fort Lauderdale's regular summer thunderstorms. Well, we're a bit off schedule today. As I write this, early in the morning, lightning is webbing the sky to my east and bursts of thunder are shaking the windows. If I abruptly end this post and you do not hear from me for weeks, it is because my computer got fried.

Changing subjects, in the last few weeks, a number of my friends and acquaintances have declared an intention to eat less meat.

Perhaps these vows have something to do with the recent coverage of the toll that large-scale meat operations take on the environment, perhaps they simply are reactions to the cost of meat in the check out aisle (an exhaustive discussion can be found here). Whatever the cause, I have been asked to post some vegetable-based recipes.

I am happy to oblige, partly because I like my friends, and partly because these requests suit my own ends. You see, I like vegetables. When I was in elementary school, I would eat salads as after-school snacks. This preference started because I liked the salad dressing that my mom bought, but eventually I came to like veggies on their own merits.

Eggplant is one of my favorites. I like tomatoes a lot, too. I started eating zucchini after deciding that it does not need to be squishy and slimy, if you prepare it correctly.

This eggplant and barley salad makes a lovely, cool summer meal. For those of you who take a dim view of rabbit food, it has the advantage of being a salad that is not based on fussy green leafies. This salad is a meal.

Turning back to the weather, it is now sunny and raining at the same time. That's kind of pretty.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad
Adapted from this recipe in Gourmet

1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 zucchini, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup pearl barley (8 oz)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
8 cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
4-6 Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed and drained if desired
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the eggplant and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl, then spread in an even layer in a baking pan. Roast the vegetables in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cook the barley. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat, then saute the scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir constantly to prevent burning.

Add the barley and stir so that it is coated with the spices. Saute the barley for 2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once the barley is cooked, spread it in a shallow baking pan so that it cools quickly to room temperature.

While the barley is cooling, make the salad dressing. Whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Add the barley, the roasted vegetables, and the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss gently to coat with the dressing.

Serves: 4 entree portions, or 6 smaller side portions


Grace said...

this is terrific! i'm a huge eggplant fan (can i just tell you how ridiculously long it took me to figure out that aubergine was just the british word for eggplant? shameful), and this sounds like the perfect use for it. bravo! :)

Cheryl said...

I so appreciate this recipe. I love eggplant, but only if someone else cooks it for me. I tend to buy them at the market and then let them wither away in the produce bin because they seem, at least in the abstract, like way too much work.

I also liked your post because I wrote today on my own blog about my recent revelatory dining experience at Ubuntu, a widely heralded vegetarian restaurant in Napa, Calif. It may give you and your veggie-loving friends even more culinary inspiration!

bb said...

I suppose my initial reaction if my friends said that they were going to eat less meat would be to get new friends was a bit shallow. I applaud the creative and delicious way you are taking care of your special needs friends...oh, wait, I mean your friend's special needs!

Aggie said...

What a great looking salad! I love pasta (grain) salads, especially healthy ones!