The first time I tried to make this was a disaster. It was during my second year away at school. I was living in my first apartment, cooking for myself for the first time. Vowing to steer clear of ramen, I relied on basic takes of my mom's classic recipes.
She called me one afternoon, as she often does, to rave about a recent find - an eggplant salad, calling for feta, one bowl, and only a half hour of oven-time. An eggplant enthusiast, I planned to make the dish for my next meal. With no copy of the recipe in front of her, she advised I search the New York Times website. It has to be the only eggplant salad you find, she said. Indeed I did only find one. It just wasn't the right one. And what ensued wasn't bad, but it sure wasn't good (due to no fault but my own).
Though my mom mailed me a color photocopy of the real recipe shortly thereafter, I was never again inclined to make the dish. I've had it several times since then, when upon eying the jungle of mint leaves crowding her pots my mom whips it up each summer. I've loved it every time, for, as the newspaper article accompanying the recipe proclaims, it's a cool, clean take on eggplant. It wasn't until I made the dish, though, and became enchanted by its simplicity that I truly understood what all of the original fuss was about.
Summer Eggplant Salad with Feta and Mint
found here, from the New York Times
I followed the recipe almost exactly. The dressing becomes clouded and muddy in the most delicious of ways. I used about half of what the recipe calls for. It keeps well refrigerated.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds eggplant (any kind, or a mixture), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 pound mixed bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Toss eggplant with 1/3 cup vinaigrette, reserving the rest. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden around edges, about 30 minutes. Let eggplant cool somewhat. (It can be warm but not hot enough to melt feta or wilt mint.)
Whisk garlic and capers into reserved vinaigrette. In a large bowl, combine eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and mint leaves. Toss with vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately or within several hours.