I did my first ever cooking pilot last year and featured this recipe. This silly video shows what a natural I was in front of the camera. I swear I warmed up! And that is my kitchen and the bearded man is my husband.
I bought my first African cookbook, Tastes of Africa, at our local bookstore, The Tattered Cover. I was so excited to go home and read it from cover to cover as any obsessed foodie would. Starting out, I made some of the more traditional stews and they were delicious and wonderful. After tackling the somewhat familiar, I branched out to trying some of the salads. And there it was “Aubergine” salad. What was an aubergine? I had a feeling it was eggplant (it is). Growing up in Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s, we never had eggplant. My mom cooked with plenty of vegetables and my grandmother had a large garden, but somehow, no eggplant. As an adult cook, I would dabble a bit with eggplant but it always seemed like a flavorless sponge. Well, it’s kind of true! It is a bit flavorless and it is a sponge. But! there was a secret I learned from the cookbook’s author, Justice Kamanga. You have to dehydrate the eggplant with salt and soak up all the bitter juice and then RE-hydrate the eggplant with olive oil. I later acted really cool about this technique, bragging about it wherever I went. It turns out, many “in the know” cooks already knew about this technique. I was just behind on my eggplant game. Okay, let’s get to it! If you’re like me you often scroll through all these words to get to the RECIPE! One more thing. Tastes of Africa, by Justice Kamanga remain my favorite multi-country African cookbook. It really started my enthusiasm for the cuisine that remains today.
serves up to 8 people as a side dish
4 large eggplants
4Tbsp. sea salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. capers
ciabatta bread for serving (optional)
Greek yogurt for serving (optional)
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
a pinch of sugar
(good)salt and pepper
Slice the eggplant into about 1/2 inch rounds. Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and then leave to stand for 30-60 min. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Take a clean dish cloth and press onto each of the eggplant slices getting up all the brown liquid. Transfer them to a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil then toss. Let the olive oil really be absorbed by the spongy eggplant. Ensure that they’re lying in a single layer then place them in the 400 degree oven until soft, but still firm. You want them to be golden brown, still soft, not crispy! After they are cool enough to handle, slice the eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Transfer the eggplant pieces to a bowl and add the tomatoes, onion, and capers. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and pour over the eggplant salad. Toss gently. Serve on thick slices of toasted ciabatta bread topped with 1 Tbsp. of yogurt each. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.