8.19.14 Roasted Summer Vegetable Panzanella
When I was a kid, my most hated food of all time was eggplant. There was just something about it that I found just incredibly awful. Which is funny, because looking back, I only remember eating it once as a kid (I believe in some sort of eggplant parmesan form) and thinking it wasn’t actually that bad. This was, of course before I knew it was eggplant that I was eating, and just thought it was some sort of delicious fried thing covered in sauce and cheese. Once my mom revealed the secret (surprise, it’s eggplant!), I wanted nothing more to do with it. I was a weird kid.
To this day, I still can’t think of why I thought I hated it. Maybe I truly had a bad eggplant experience that has since been blocked from my memory. Maybe it’s just pure stubbornness in response to being tricked into eating it (knowing me, it’s probably the latter). Whatever the reason, until very recently, I wouldn’t go near the stuff. Which is sad to say, because a couple of years ago, when I finally gave eggplant another try, I realized that over all of those past eggplant-less years, I’d really been missing out.
Nowadays, I eat quite a bit of eggplant, no trickery required. It’s delicious fried ala eggplant parm, grilled, and even blended with tahini and garlic to make a tasty dip. But I think my favorite way to cook eggplant is to roast it. Simply tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper, a splash of balsamic, and roasted to perfection. You can do about a million delicious things with it, but one of the best ways to enjoy your roasted eggplanty goodness is to add it to a nice summer salad.
Of course, we’re not talking just any salad here. Oh, no. We’re talking about the panzanella, a.k.a the BEST kind of salad. Any salad where the lettuce has been replaced with crunchy homemade croutons is pretty darn awesome in my book. Adding some roasted eggplant is icing on the cake. And while we’re roasting that eggplant, we may as well roast some other summer veggies, for added variety and deliciousness. Throw in some cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, and top it with some crumbled cheese, and boom. Now that’s a salad.
Roasted Summer Vegetable Panzanella
serves about 6
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ lb hearty wheat or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 3-4 oz crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggplant, red pepper, fennel, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine well. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.
3. Toss the bread cubes with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until bread is crispy and edges are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, roasted vegetables with all of their juices, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled ricotta salata or feta, and serve.