Eggplants – aubergines in other parts of the world – lend themselves beautifully for a number of savory presentations. In the Middle East, there is the baba ganoush, a rich and smoky dip made with roasted and pureed eggplants enriched with olive oil and given some zing with ground sumac. Eggplants are one of the key vegetables in such classic vegetable casseroles as ratatouille and the Italian melanzane Parmigiana.
In the Philippines, it is used with ground meat and eggs to make savory frittatas (tortang talong), added to the bagoong-seasoned pinakbet of the northern provinces, or simply boiled, mashed, and scrambled with eggs to make the whimsically-named poqui-poqui – an Ilocano side dish traditionally served with the cholesterol-laden bit of porky madness known as bagnet.
In the summer, eggplants are used to make, ensaladang talong, a delicious side dish that goes beautifully with the grilled meats and seafood that have become typical fare for the season. This little side salad is traditionally made with boiled eggplants and red onions, but mine has a bit of a fresher twist to it, seeing how I’ve grilled the eggplants and swapped the red onion for fresh leeks. I recommend using the skinnier Asian eggplants for this, though. They’re certainly less bitter than the fatter, rounder European kind.
- 2 Asian eggplants, peeled and slitted
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon rock salt or sea salt
- 1 leek, trimmed and coarsely diced
- 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (I normally use coconut vinegar [sukang puti], but sinamak [chili and garlic-infused vinegar] adds loads of flavor)
- salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Rub the eggplants all over with the oil and rock salt. Grill until charred on all sides. Allow to cool for a few minutes and chop coarsely. Toss with the leek and tomato in a serving dish. Dress with the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves 6 as a side.
Incidentally… Aside from being a nice addition to a meal featuring barbecued meats and roasts, this salad is also an excellent partner for richly-flavored Southeast Asian braises such as Filipino pork adobo. 😉