Roasted eggplant, red capsicum and tomato salad with basil & parmesan dressing
This colourful salad is easily made, as it’s really just a case of putting together a few different components. On a hot, humid evening at the height of summer, it’s lovely eaten with chunks of bread to mop up the fragrant tomato-y, basil-y juices.
2 large, even red capsicums
¾ cup (180 ml) extra virgin olive oil
10 ripe roma tomatoes (you can use small round tomatoes if romas aren’t available)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons caster sugar
1 clove garlic, cut into paper-thin slices
2 – 3 medium-size eggplants (aubergines), about 500g total weight
2 large red onions
8 – 12 bocconcini, torn into rough chunks
Small basil leaves, to garnish
Basil and parmesan dressing:
¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
⅔ cup (160 ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
½ – 1 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
Slice the capsicums down their natural contour lines into large pieces. Remove the cores, seeds and white ribs then sit the pieces, shiny-side up, on a grill or baking tray. Slide them under a hot grill until the skins blister and blacken, then take them out and cover them with a thick tea-towel. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel away and discard the skins, and slice the flesh into 1cm wide strips. (You can prepare these up to a week ahead of time, and store them, covered with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, in the fridge; just return them to room temperature before using.)
Preheat your oven to 160C.
Trickle 1 ½ tablespoons of the olive oil into a large, shallow ovenproof dish that will hold the tomatoes, once they’re halved, in a single layer. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways; make a small shallow V-shaped cut to remove the core, then sit the halves in the prepared dish. When they’re all done, drizzle another 1 ½ tablespoons of oil over the top and use your hands to gently turn the tomatoes in the oil so they’re slick and glossy. Make sure they’re cut-side-up when you’ve finished. Sprinkle each half with a pinch of the salt and sugar, and sit a slice or two of garlic on top. Put the dish in the oven, and cook the tomatoes for about 1 – 1 ¼ hours until they have shrivelled somewhat and are a deep burnished red. When they’re ready, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C, and line a large oven tray with baking paper.
Cut the eggplant into long, slim wedges, then put them in a large bowl. Peel and slice the onion lengthwise into wedges, leaving a little of the root end attached to hold the wedges together then add these to the bowl too. Pour on the remaining olive oil, and use your hands to gently mix everything together. Spread the mixture onto the prepared oven tray in a single layer, then pop it in the oven. Roast the veggies, turning them once or twice, for about 25 minutes or so until they’re tender and speckled brown with some darker crispy bits (the best part!). Remove them from the oven, and leave them to cool a little.
While the eggplant and onions are cooking, make the dressing. Put the basil leaves, parsley, garlic and parmesan into a blender. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until it’s completely incorporated and the dressing is a gorgeous, gloopy green. Quickly blend in the vinegar and salt, then taste a little dressing and adjust the flavours to suit you.
You can serve this on a large platter, and offer the dressing separately, or make up individual plates. To do this, put a few slices of eggplant in the centre of each plate, then sit a few strips of capsicum on top. Dot these with some bocconcini, onion wedges, and tomato halves (drizzle them with some of their cooking juices), and splodge a bit of dressing here and there as you go (or you can serve it separately). Continue layering the salad ingredients onto the plates until it looks right to you (you can serve any leftover veggies separately). To finish off, scatter with small basil leaves and serve immediately.